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Georgia Hispanic Chamber names interim president to lead in turbulent times

GHCC, homepage

By David Pendered

The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has named a former UPS executive as its interim president.

Gabriel Vaca

Gabriel Vaca

Gabriel Vaca arrives just in time to help members as they try to rebound from the pandemic and navigate repercussions of a major Supreme Court ruling expected this month – and possibly a ruling in an immigration case the court announced Monday it will hear later this year.

Vaca’s first public comments aimed to reassure more than 1,300 GHCC members. Vaca said, in a statement released Monday:

  • “I’m honored to be selected by the executive committee and I want to reassure the GHCC’s members and sponsors that we will have a smooth transition. The chamber is as strong as it has ever been and we are creating many opportunities for businesses.”

One project related to the effort to rebound from COVID-19 economic woes is a virtual program to help members recover their business operations.

In addition, the chamber is implementing a program sponsored by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that intends to help existing companies scale their business model to enable the company to grow. The GHCC is one of seven Hispanic chambers chosen for the national program, according to a statement.

Vaca is to take over July 1 from Santiago Marquez, who stepped down after three years as president and CEO. Marquez is leaving to serve as executive director of the Latin American Association, where he’s to succeed Aníbal Torres, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

In announcing Vaca’s position, Ivan Shammas, chairman of the GHCC Board and general manager for Telemundo Atlanta, also focused on a bright future:

  • “We are very happy for Santiago and know that he will continue to be an outstanding leader for our Hispanic community. We’re fortunate to have Gabriel Vaca already onboard in a leadership role at the chamber and know that under his direction, along with the strong team in place, the GHCC will continue to be a valuable resource for Georgia businesses.”

The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has an array of programs to help members grow their business. Credit: ghcc.org

Vaca currently serves as GHCC’s executive vice president. Vaca previously served as a GHCC board chairman and joined the chamber after working with UPS for 24 years, in the major markets of Miami and Atlanta.

Vaca joined UPS in Miami in 1994 to help customers develop exports and imports among the U.S., Mexico and Latin America. Vaca relocated to metro Atlanta to work in UPS’s corporate division for international business development, according to a biography posted by GHCC.

Three external challenges occurring during the early days of Vaca’s tour of duty include:


Pew Research Center released a report Monday showing that Hispanic women and immigrants are among those hit hardest by the economic shutdown that resulted from the pandemic. Hispanic women recorded a steeper decline in unemployment than other women, or men, the report determined.

Hispanic women experienced an employment decline of 21 percent. Among men, declines included: Asian, down 17 percent; Hispanic, down 15 percent; black, down 13 percent; white, down 9 percent.

Hispanic women did not experience this decline the most recent major downturn, Pew observed: “The employment of Hispanic women was essentially unchanged during the Great Recession.”

Supreme Court ruling – DACA

An estimated 650,000 to 700,000 immigrants are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Nearly 16,000 who reside in metro Atlanta, and 24,000 in Georgia, are enrolled in DACA. The DACA program provides protections for noncitizens who were brought into the U.S. before they were 16 years old. They are able to work, study, and live in the U.S. without fear of deportation. DACA does not provide a path to citizenship or legal permanent residency.

Then-President Obama established the DACA program after Congress was unable to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. President Trump campaigned in 2016 on a promise to dismantle the program, which he contends cannot be established by an executive order.

Supreme Court – Niz-Chavez v. Barr

The court announced Monday that it would hear this case. The issue to be resolved is the type of notice the government must provide a person who’s facing deportation. The notice is important because once it is given to the individual, the clock stops on the person’s ability to mark the time necessary to get relief from deportation.

Agusto Niz-Chavez fled Guatemala for the United States in 2005. He left after a land dispute between his family and nearby villagers ended with the slaying of his brother-in-law, according to a history of the case posted by biahelp.com. Niz-Chavez has lived in Detroit since 2007, is the father of three, and fears he’ll be killed by the villagers if he returns to Guatemala – they will think he has returned to claim the land, he testified.

Lower courts ruled against Niz-Chavez and now the Supreme Court has agreed to decide this specific question, according to the court’s public case file:

  • “Whether, to serve notice in accordance with section 1229(a) and trigger the stop-time rule, the government must serve a specific document that includes all the information identified in section 1229(a), or whether the government can serve that information over the course of as many documents and as much time as it chooses.”
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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