Immigration

BG women protest separation of children and parents seeking asylum

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green women piled into an SUV Thursday afternoon and headed for Detroit to be part of a national protest against a U.S. policy they called inhumane. The numbers aren’t exact, but it’s been estimated that nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico in the last six weeks. The Trump administration has said it is simply following the law. But opponents say there is no law requiring that children be taken from parents who are seeking asylum in the U.S. “This is immoral,” said Janet Parks as the Bowling Green women headed up Interstate 75 in Tom Baer’s BG Airport Shuttle. Parks was joined by Joan Callecod, Beatriz Maya, Debra Nicholson, Sandy Rowland and Amanda Schackow – a retired educator, accountant, realtor, retail manager, writer and community advocate. “I’m ashamed of what our country is doing by separating families,” Rowland said. For some, the protest was personal. “I know several people who came here as asylum cases,” Schackow said. “Thinking about their children being taken away is really horrific.” As the SUV continued north, the women talked about tango classes, knitting, travels and food. But the conversation kept circling back to the injustice of children being separated from their parents. “I keep thinking about the trauma the children are going through,” Callecod said. “These are people. These are not animals,” Nicholson said. Maya, originally from Argentina, finds it hard to fathom the harm caused by the separations. “It is unbelievable that somebody can do this. It’s the most horrific thing,” Maya said. These families seeking asylum in the U.S. have made great sacrifices getting here – many trying to escape life-threatening situations, she said. “I went through a dictatorship in Argentina. It is already frightening to be an immigrant,” Maya said. “Do you know what it is to lose your kids to foster care and never know what happened to them?” The Bowling Green women joined about 300 other protesters outside the gates of the immigration detention center in Detroit. As they lined Jefferson Street and encouraged vehicles to honk, the protestors held signs saying things like: Immigrant rights are human rights. No more families torn apart. Hate does not make U.S. great. We’ve seen this before (with a Jewish star.) Nazis also took children away. Compassion not cruelty. Unless you are a descendant of Crazy Horse, what right do you have to be anti-immigrant. Family separation is not an American value. Families belong together – Sincerely, a pediatrician. There were older people with walkers, younger people with strollers, and families with children holding homemade signs. There were people still in their business clothes, like the man in a shirt and tie with a sign saying, “Don’t steal children.” “I see a cross…

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BG tries to remove barriers to ‘welcoming city’ status

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Last year, the city of Bowling Green declared itself a “welcoming community” for immigrants. While the spirit is there, it appears being welcoming is easier said than done. The resolution passed by City Council proclaims “Bowling Green as a welcoming and safe community for immigrants and condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents of Bowling Green.” To show the significance of the resolution, after its adoption, a group of city residents read a portion of the resolution in Vietnamese, Indian, Hindi, German, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and English. But now what? Members of the solidarity committee of La Conexion recently discussed how to break down barriers for local immigrants, and how to make them aware of Bowling Green’s “welcoming” status. A task force has been working to identify the barriers to attracting and maintaining immigrants in the city, according to Beatriz Maya, of La Conexion. Those include access to work, documentation, housing, transportation, social support systems and language. Many Latinos struggle with housing. “If you are a newcomer, you don’t have a credit history,” Maya said. “We like to save and buy, save and buy. But here, you have to have debt.” Language courses are offered through La Conexion and other organizations, and translators are available with the police. “We have a good relationship with the police,” she said. One of the motivations behind the “welcoming” declaration is the community’s shortage of labor. “We need immigrant workers because we need workers,” Maya said. But how can the city get the word out that it is “welcoming.” “How do we make this welcoming city more visible,” Maya said. “Not a lot of people know that Bowling Green is a welcoming city.” Amanda Schackow, of La Conexion, agreed that visibility is a big concern. “They can make all of these changes, but if that message isn’t reaching immigrants, they might as well not be there,” Schackow said. One idea of the task force is to create a “welcoming committee” that would connect newly arriving immigrants with “navigators” to help them with language problems, housing, utilities, food, phone numbers for services. A “navigator” might help an immigrant family through the process of signing a lease or going to the hospital. It was suggested that retirees and BGSU Service Learning students might make good navigators. It was suggested that the city’s welcoming status could benefit from having a logo, website and Facebook page. Several other cities in Ohio already have “welcoming” programs in place, with functioning websites. “The more people who know, the more it will attract immigrants to Bowling Green,” Maya said. Plans are also being made to hold educational programs about immigration, with Linda Lander and Janet Parks organizing those efforts. “Immigrants have been portrayed very negatively,” Lander said. “We all came…


DACA deadline nears with fate of Dreamers in question

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It is now less than two weeks until the DACA program is set to expire. Meanwhile, the people who came to the U.S. as small children continue to be used as a political football by politicians, according to Beatriz Maya, of the La Conexion organization in Wood County. “It would be a miracle if they could come up with something meaningful in a few days,” Maya said Sunday as members of the La Conexion Solidarity Committee met. “We are expecting the worst.” However, the rulings of two federal courts are keeping the DACA program on life support, explained Amanda Schackow, also of La Conexion. The court rulings are at least allowing renewals, but no one new can be added to DACA. This has local immigrants and their advocates frustrated and fearful. “The Republicans promised to come out with a fix for DACA. That did not happen,” Schackow said. “The Dream Act was not even a conversation.” Ten different attempts at legislation are “floating around,” she said. “There’s no concrete piece of legislation.” Compromise is difficult, with President Donald Trump’s insistence on a border wall, reduction in the total number of immigrants coming in, limits on family members allowed, and an end to the diversity program, Schackow said. Since little can be done about the legislation in limbo, the La Conexion Solidarity Committee has been preparing local families for possible deportation by getting the proper documentation for the children born in the U.S. from Dreamers. “They need to prepare for that terrible eventuality,” Schackow said. Deportations of non-criminal undocumented immigrants have gone up 40 percent in the past year, Schackow said. According to ABLE (Advocates for Basic Legal Equality), the top trigger for deportations is traffic stops. Ten or so states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses. But Ohio does not. Those immigrants are often turned over to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Undocumented immigrants are given identification numbers with the IRS, so they can pay taxes on their income – but they are not allowed to have driver’s licenses in Ohio. “It’s a political decision,” Schackow said. La Conexion has hosted an educational forum with ABLE about the immigration system, and has organized a rally to gather community support for immigrants. The members write letters to legislators, and have organized visits to Congressman Bob Latta’s office. But the organization is committed to doing more than just rallies, Maya and Schackow said. They have also helped two local immigrants renew their DACA applications before the deadline last fall. Those renewal applications were $495 each. The cost of getting documentation for children varies from $30 to $1,000 depending on where they were born. So La Conexion wants to plan some fundraisers to make sure there is money in reserve when families need documentation….


Local residents persist – return to march for rights

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Andrea Killy-Knight would rather not have to march again next January. “I hope I don’t have to put on my ‘Nasty Woman’ shirt and wave my same signs next year,” Killy-Knight said after this year’s Unity March in Toledo on Sunday. But if she has to march, Killy-Knight and many other Bowling Green residents will put on their pink hats and their walking shoes. “I’ll do it again next year. But I hope the circumstances are different,” she said. Sunday’s march was the second for many local residents who peacefully protested everything from women’s rights to immigration wrongs. For Killy-Knight, who marched in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last year, that meant re-enlisting her sign from a previous rally that read “Your silence will not protect you.” “It was funny, in a disgusting way,” that the signs from last year were still applicable for this march, she said. Sandy Rowland was also in Ann Arbor last year and Toledo this year. “There’s still a big need to let government know that we have a voice, and we have needs that need to be filled,” she said. Armed with her sign that said, “Hate has no home here,” Rowland said this year’s march may not have been as thrilling as last year – but it was a clear sign of unity and strength. “It was very rejuvenating,” she said. “Women have their place. They have their rights.” Joining in the march were also many men and families with children – numbering close to 1,000. “It was a great unified voice,” Rowland said. Maria Simon made up for missing last year’s march by joining in the event on Sunday. “I was at a conference in Atlanta last year,” she said. “It was hard to not be in solidarity with everyone. That’s one of the reasons I really didn’t want to miss this one.” Simon donned her pink hat, and carried her sign stating, “Make America Proud Again,” and “Power to the Polls.” Her favorite sign at the march read “Also, everything else.” “That sign says it all,” Simon said. “The list of grievances goes on and on. There were a variety of people and a variety of issues.” For many marchers, it was their first time taking a political stand. “A lot of men said they were marching for their mothers,” Simon said. “I felt like I was not just marching for myself, but in solidarity with women.” Though rejuvenating, Simon also felt the frustration of those who had marched last year and decades ago for women’s and civil rights. “I thought we were done with this,” she said. “We really have to keep getting out on the streets and make things clear and keep listening. We want to communicate that change is coming, but maybe…


KKK history in Wood County unmasked by BGSU prof

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When the Ku Klux Klan took root in Wood County in the early 1920s, the members wore the traditional white robes and hoods, but there was little secrecy about their activities. There was no need to conceal their hatred since the membership roster included many local politicians, businessmen and ministers. Every Ohio county in the 1920s had an active Klan group, according to Michael E. Brooks, author of the book, “The Ku Klux Klan in Wood County, Ohio.” “Wood County is not particularly unique in having a history of the KKK,” said Brooks, a historian who teaches at BGSU. “What is unique is that the records survived.” Included in those records is a membership ledger that was reportedly rescued from a burn pile in 1976. The ledger, which is included in Brooks’ book, reads like a “Who’s Who” of Wood County, with familiar surnames recorded from every community. Brooks explains that economic uncertainty in the 1920s was one of the most significant factors in the rise of the reborn KKK in Ohio. Newspapers told of historically high unemployment rates, declining farm incomes and sluggish postwar economic growth. Membership records in the Center for Archival Collections at BGSU show that nearly 1,400 members paid dues to the Wood County KKK in 1924 and 1925. Once accepted into the Klan, the new members would be fitted for robes and hoods. Measurements would be taken at the local KKK office, and the information would be submitted to the national Klan headquarters for tailoring. No women or children were allowed. A 1927 phone book lists the KKK as having an address at 182½ S. Main St. in Bowling Green. “They didn’t have to sneak around at night. They could parade around in their robes,” Brooks said. “It was fashionable to be in the Klan.” The Klan was welcomed into many local churches during Sunday morning services. Many of the local ministers were members of the organization, like Rev. Rush A. Powell of the United Brethren Church in Bowling Green. Powell, a charter member of the Klan, told his congregation that he stood for the same principles as those held by his hooded guests – against criminal activity, undesirable immigrants and a decline in morality. Recruitment during church services was common. “The extent to which that was going on was very surprising,” Brooks said. Churches were used to add to the “moral legitimacy” of the group. According to records, nearly 40 percent of the Protestant clergy in Wood County were KKK members. People with political ambitions also were not afraid to add the Klan to their resume. “It helped get people elected,” Brooks said. In the 1920s and 1930s, Klan members in Wood County served as mayors, county commissioners, county sheriffs, county judges, county prosecutor, police officers,…


Citizens ask Latta to stop deportation of ‘dreamers’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two months ago, Beatriz Maya sat in U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s office waiting for answers on where the congressman stands on deporting “dreamers.” She is still waiting. Maya, executive director of La Conexion, was back in Latta’s Bowling Green office on Monday, this time asking to show the congressman the economic and human side of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.) She and eight others delivered a letter encouraging Latta to talk to local employers who can’t find enough workers to fill jobs, and to families who are at risk of being torn apart. “If he hears their personal stories, we are confident that he will get a different story than what he is hearing in Washington,” she said. Maya wants Latta to meet the local young man who grew up in Wood County, learned carpentry at Penta Career Center, and now works for Rudolph-Libbe. He has no criminal record, yet he is at risk of being deported. “There is nothing you can find in him that would warrant deportation,” she said. Earlier this fall, President Donald Trump announced he would end the DACA program in six months if Congress doesn’t find a more permanent solution. Since it was enacted under President Barack Obama, about 800,000 immigrants who were children when they arrived in the U.S. illegally have received protections from the program. DACA allows young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and to receive permission to work, study and obtain driver’s licenses. Many of the “dreamers” have been here since they were babies, and America is the only country they know. Those signing up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. Their status is renewable every two years. Bowling Green’s city administration has voiced its support of DACA, and has proclaimed the city as a welcoming place for immigrants. But when asked about his stance in September, the local citizens were told that Latta was waiting to make a decision until Speaker Paul Ryan’s task force had studied the issue. When the question was repeated on Monday, Latta’s aide Tim Bosserman said he had not discussed it with the congressman. “But nothing has happened. We are running out of time. We have thousands of dreamers waiting for a solution,” Maya said. Maya fears that Congress will do nothing. “So they are basically waiting for the time to pass, so it expires.” Maya offered to help acquaint Latta with the local effect of DACA, so he doesn’t have to wait on the congressional task force. “We can facilitate that if he’s willing to do that,” she said. “We cannot tolerate this inaction. He’s our representative.” Yvette Llanas, a lifelong Bowling Green resident, agreed that Latta needs to be responsive…


UN official comes home to Ohio to address the plight of refugees

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even as the global refugee crisis grows, efforts to resettle them have stalled. Anne-Marie McGranaghan, an associate resettlement officer for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, reported that the number of refugees resettled this year will be about 70,000, less than half the number resettled in 2016, This comes, she said, after several years of increased numbers. That reflects the United States cutting the number of refugees it will resettle in half while other countries has so many now in the pipeline that have put a pause on their programs. The United States resettles the most of any country, though on a per capita basis other countries, particularly Nordic European nations, do far more. McGranaghan was the keynote speaker Tuesday (Nov. 14) at the Immigrant Ohio Symposium at Bowling Green State University. The focus was “Refugees Past and Present.” Resettlement, McGranaghan said, is just one solution for the world’s 65.6 million refugees. That’s the largest number ever, she said, and is expected to continue to grow. Three countries Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan account for half that number. Next year, McGranaghan said, she expects members of the Rohingya people fleeing to Bangladesh from Myanmar will join that list. Just since August more than 600,000 have left the country formerly known as Burma. McGranaghan said that according to the Geneva Convention on Refugees, passed in 1951 to deal with Europeans cast adrift after World War II, “a refugee is a person who has a well-founded fear of persecution.” That can be because of race, religion, nationality, political affiliation, or social group. Those in the latter category could be a gay man fleeing a country where homosexuality is outlawed and they face persecution and death or a young woman facing early marriage or genital mutilation. Often UNHRC officers face tough choices. They may have just 1,000 slots for refugees to go to, but 100,000 people seeking those slots. McGranaghan said that a determination is made on who may be more at risk staying in a camp. It may be a journalist or a woman who is the sole provider for her family and may have to turn to sex work to provide for them. The traditional solutions for refugees are inadequate. The first, she said, is voluntary repatriation back to their home country. “Most refugees want to return to their homeland, but this requires a political solution,” she said. When it is possible the UNHCR helps monitor conditions in the country, helps with transportation and works with other agencies on development. “We haven’t seen a lot of large repatriation programs in the recent years,” she said. Refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone were able to return after the ethnic conflicts there. And some Afghanis have returned. The second common solution, McGranaghan said, is integration into…