By Emma Castleberry
Pisgah Legal Services will host the 9th annual Justice Forum (formerly known as the Poverty Forum) on October 3 at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at the US Cellular Center. The event will begin with an advance reception at 5:30 p.m. and the forum begins at 7 p.m. The purpose of the forum is to highlight the plight of low-income people in Western North Carolina and to elevate the conversation about pressing local and national issues.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas will speak at the forum. “This year’s forum is about the challenges faced by immigrants and the work that Pisgah Legal Services does to help immigrant families and individuals,” says Shoshana Fried, immigration attorney and program director for the Justice for All Program at Pisgah Legal Services. “We believe that this is the perfect time for our community to hear directly from an immigrant who can tell his compelling personal story and help contextualize this important issue that affects so many people in Western North Carolina.” According to the Pew Research Center, more than 10 million immigrants live in North Carolina. A recent study by the New American Economy showed that Asheville’s immigrant households earned $489 million and contributed more than $113 million in taxes in 2016.
Vargas journeyed to America from the Philippines as a child and has dedicated his life to immigration reform. He is founder and CEO of Define American, the nation’s leading nonprofit media organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate through storytelling. His work has been published in The New York Times and he has also been recognized on the cover of TIME magazine. In 2018, Vargas published his best-selling memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. He is also the producer and director of Documented, an award-winning feature film about his personal experiences. “We hope that people will be interested in hearing how he came to America from the Philippines as a child and what his life has been like as an undocumented journalist and immigration reform activist,” says Fried. “Immigration has become such a contentious issue in our country. We hope to address myths surrounding immigration, explore key issues affecting immigrants and illustrate how difficult and complicated immigration really is.”
Tickets to the reception are on sale now for $60. For the first time this year, the Justice Forum will be free to attend but advance registration is required. For more information about the event, call Ally Wilson at Pisgah Legal Services at 828-210-3444 or visit PisgahLegal.org/JusticeForum.