The Burma Center is in the business of empowering people through advocacy, community engagement and education. One of its lines of service is Burmese-English language interpretation to serve the 2,500 Burmese residents who have immigrated to the area over the past 15 years. Burma Center advocates for equitable access to resources and services, but Executive Director Martha Thawnghmung says she thinks the pervasiveness of institutional racism and how immigrant groups are often pitted against one another are complicating efforts to unite various groups.
“In our area, the most significant economic shift over the past three decades has been moving from cereal production to auto parts production. We see bursts of innovation here and there but the mentality of the people in the area largely has not shifted. Yet, an undeniable, albeit reluctant, movement towards acknowledging the value of its diverse resident population is emerging. … We advocate for equitable access to resources and services. The propensity of businesses and agencies to utilize interpretative services correlates with the health of the economy. The more robust the economy, the more likely that businesses and agencies are to use our language services. … Being an immigrant advocacy organization, we are most concerned about the immigration issues, especially those affecting the Asian American population, and the unchecked power Immigration and Customs Enforcement is currently carelessly wielding. Although the volatile political environment has damaged the optimism of the collective immigrant community in our area, it has also reinvigorated our sense of social justice and has made us bolder in seeking allies, seeking equity for all, and has united us in many ways.”