Immigration

BG asks county to help welcome immigrants to fill jobs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   “Help wanted” signs are going unanswered in Wood County. So local officials are looking at attracting immigrants to the region to fill those openings. Bowling Green initially wanted to put out a welcome mat to immigrants because it was the right thing to do morally. Then as city officials researched the idea, they discovered it was also the right thing to do economically. As evidenced by the number of “now hiring” signs posted in the region, Bowling Green and Wood County economic development officials have been hearing for months that the region is running low on workers. In May, Wood County economic development officials were celebrating a banner year in business expansions – creating nearly 1,000 new jobs. But the issue waiting in the wings was the low unemployment in the region, wavering between 3 and 4 percent. While that low rate is great news to employees, it is worrisome to economic development officials. “It’s a good thing. But there is going to be a time when new businesses slow down looking at Northwest Ohio,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said earlier this year to the county commissioners. On Tuesday, the county commissioners heard the same warning – this time from Bowling Green officials. “We hear the same message time and time again,” Mayor Dick Edwards said. “We need good workers.” City Council passed a resolution in 2017 welcoming immigrants and “condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents.” As the initiative was researched, it became obvious that the welcome mat could have far-reaching economic benefits. Ohio Means Jobs estimates there are 9,200 job openings within a 20-mile radius of Bowling Green. “We are looking for skilled and other kinds of workers to come to Wood County and Bowling Green,” Edwards said. While Ohio has always been looked upon favorably by companies because of the region’s work ethic – that means nothing if there aren’t people to fill jobs. Wood County Commissioner Craig LaHote said site selection teams will notice if the available workforce is too low. “We might get ruled out before they look at anything else,” he said. Communities around the region – like Toledo and Sandusky – have already adopted “welcoming” initiatives. And while the success of the region and Wood County to bring jobs here is great, it has created a critical need to attract more workers to the area, said Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green’s economic development commission. “That only makes the workforce demand more crucial,” Clark said. Clark explained the local effort is being designed to welcome immigrants and refugees. She listed possible refugees escaping the war in Syria or the unrest in Central America. “We’re not talking about bringing in illegal immigrants,” she said. The initiative would also extend the welcome mat to international students who come to Bowling Green State University. “We do not make it particularly easy for them to find a job and stay on,” Clark said. Beatriz Maya, from LaConexion and a member of the Welcome BG Task Force, said the initiative makes economic sense. “This is based upon hard demographic data,” Maya said. “There is a shortage of more workers, for a younger workforce.” Companies that can’t find workers won’t come…

Read More

Arts Beat: Sharing the bravos – ‘Emilie,’ electrifies; ‘Montreal, White City,’ haunts

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bravo! BGSU this weekend was a major arts event, showcasing some, but by no means all that transpires here culturally. Like the food served at Bravo! this was just a taste, delicious to be sure, but a sampling. As the spring semester unwinds, it’s hard to keep up with everything going on. Yet there are events that bear documenting.   “Emilie” Among those performing at Bravo! BGSU was Hillary LaBonte, who with Caroline Kouma, reprised a duet from Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte,” which was staged two weeks ago. That opera was a frothy entertainment. Just a couple days before Bravo! though, LaBonte had the stage to herself in a very different opera. Working with conductor Maria Mercedes Diaz Garcia and the Vive! Ensemble, which the conductor founded, she sang “Emilie,” a solo opera by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and Lebanese author Amin Maalouf. Here LaBonte portrays leading 18th century French intellectual Emilie de Chatelet. We find de Chatelet in the process of writing a letter to her lover, the father of the child she carries. De Chatelet was a woman of great passions, both physical and intellectual, and all these weave together. She spills her heart into the letter. Her quill is amplified so that there’s a telegraphic urgency as she writes. That’s just one of the ways the composer uses electronics to expose Emilie’s inner life. Emilie is consumed by a sense of foreboding, about to give birth, she expects the worst. She speaks of her hopes for her child, hopes for a parent as loving and encouraging as her father. Rare for the time, de Chatelet received a full education in the sciences and arts. She played harpsichord. The instrument electronically amplified plays a prominent part in the orchestra. It tracks, even anticipates, her thoughts. She is devoted to astronomy, physics, mathematics, and philosophy. There is nothing cold about her calculations and observations. They burn like the sun, whose constitution she ponders. Emilie is at this point completing her translation into French from Latin of Newton’s “Principia.” This is the cutting edge science of the day, and still aligned with the mystical. The score, performed by a small orchestra, amplifies the moods, whether the dark foreboding or antic excitement. LaBonte soars above, her voice capturing all the emotional shades of Emilie’s personality. As she faces her fears that she will disappear in “the web of oblivion” she imagines holding her book, not her child, in her arms. As reality would have it, she died at 43, nine days after giving birth. Her completed manuscript would be found a few years after her death and only then published. It remains the definitive translation of “Principia” in French. Emilie de Chatelet is something of a forgotten woman. This opera reveals her in all her complexity. It’s says something about the passion Diaz Garcia, LaBonte, and their colleagues have for this opera, that they would tackle it in the midst of their own hectic spring performance  schedules. The performance was a testament to the creative energy that surges through the new music scene.   “Montreal, White City” Another troubled, passionate woman is at the heart of Bachir Bensaddek’s film “Montréal la Blanche (Montreal, White City).” In late March, the filmmaker visited campus to show and…


Local man jailed by ICE as family fights his deportation

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A traffic stop has landed a local man in jail, with the next stop likely deportation back to Mexico for being an undocumented immigrant. He has left behind three children who are U.S. citizens, a wife who has just been diagnosed with Lupus, and a local employer who is unlikely to find a documented American to take his place in the fields. “Who’s winning with this,” said Beatriz Maya, from La Conexion of Wood County, who is trying to help both the family left behind and the husband being held in Geauga County jail which has a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “We are losing a hardworking person, who is honest and never took anything,” Maya said. The family has lost its breadwinner, and the farmer has lost a worker. “Who’s winning?” Fearful that they might be targeted by ICE, since the mother is also an undocumented immigrant, the family wanted to tell their story without revealing their names. Though the three children, ages 11, 14 and 16, are all proficient in English, their mom speaks primarily Spanish, so Maya provided translation  at the family’s kitchen table in their very modest home that they hope to hang onto. The family’s story is complicated, with one unwavering detail – the father being held by ICE and likely to be deported is a hard-working man. The father came to the U.S. in 1996 to pick crops in Florida. Starting in 2002, he began migrating between Ohio and Florida to hit harvest seasons. At age 38, he has picked oranges, apples, strawberries, cucumbers and pumpkins, his wife said. He started working picking crops on a large farm in Wood County, then changed jobs to work at a local dairy which meant year-round work so their children did not have to move during the school year. His latest job was working at an area orchard. By all accounts, the man is a hard worker, with his previous employers often trying to get him back, Maya said. He is quiet, barely makes eye-contact when talking, and is illiterate, Maya said. “To be honest, he’s a very hard worker,” his wife said as she nervously fiddled with her fingers at the kitchen table. She is a petite woman with her hair pulled together in a neat bun, and a face full of worries. “Oh my gosh, he loves the heavy, heavy work.” On days off, he is still up early in the morning, finding odd jobs or taking the kids to the apple orchard. “He doesn’t like to be in the home resting,” his wife said through Maya. That all changed for the family in January, when the wife, also from Mexico, woke up with a severe headache. “I opened my eyes and felt pain in my eyes. I couldn’t see,” she said. The family went to a migrant farm workers clinic in Fremont. “They told her they couldn’t do anything for her,” Maya said. They then went to an emergency room and were given drops that did not help. After a couple other medical visits, the family was advised to see a specialist in Columbus. There she was diagnosed with Lupus. At the end of February, her family was headed back down to Columbus to pick…


BGSU’s Bruce Collet has advice on how to help immigrants assimilate

By ROBIN STANTON GERROW for  BGSU Office of  Marketing & Communications As the Western world sees a new influx of immigrants, many with strong religious affiliations, countries are grappling with how to help them acculturate into their new societies. Dr. Bruce Collet, associate professor in the Bowling Green State University School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy and coordinator of the Master of Arts in Cross-Cultural and International Education program in the College of Education and Human Development, sees the important role public schools have in this process. In his new book, “Migration, Religion, and Schooling in Liberal Democratic States” (Routledge, 2018) he lays out recommendations on how these institutions can help facilitate immigrants’ integration. Drawing from political philosophy, the sociology of migration and the philosophy of education, Collet argues that public schools in liberal democratic states can best facilitate the pluralistic integration of religious migrant students through adopting policies of recognition and accommodation that are not only reasonable in light of liberal democratic principles, but also informed by what we understand regarding the natural role religion often plays in acculturation. Collet posits the question of how public schools in liberal democratic states — those that place a high value on freedom and autonomy — can help immigrants and refugees create a “sense of belongingness” to their new homes. “It really is about how educational policymakers and teachers can better understand the connection between religion and acculturation,” he said. Collet’s interest in this issue stems from a combination of scholarly work and personal experience. “My parents were emblematic of the 1960s,” he said. “They wanted to throw off the constraints of the ’50s. We moved to Madison, Wisconsin, when I was 7, and the journey for them was spiritual in a way not available to them when they were growing up. At a very early age, I saw the connection between migration and faith, as my mother, who was involved in the Quaker movement, worked with Central American refugees. Later, for my dissertation, I worked with Somali immigrants in the Toronto area on the relationship between the migration experience and perception of a national identity. Working with the Somalians, generally a religious lot, I found that religion surfaced as an important element of the diaspora and it piqued my curiosity.” For his current work, Collet found that religion can sometimes be front and center, either as an impediment or facilitator of integration into a new culture. “Schools in liberal democratic states have a vital role to play in helping migrant students integrate into their new society, and it is important that they begin by understanding how and where migrants feel they ‘belong,’” he said. “Religion, not always, but often, will play a positive role in selective acculturation of new immigrants,” he said. “One way is through institutions—such as churches, temples, and mosques—as points of entry for social networks and employment, and to provide an anchor or sense of security for immigrants.” But how can public schools become part of this integration process in which religion is so important? According to Collet, one thing policymakers can do is begin to truly understand the importance of a child’s religion, and not just accept it. “Take, for example, a first-generation Muslim girl from Yemen who wears a hijab,” he said. “We may allow her to do so,…


Film series at Gish Theater explores exile & migration across continents

From BGSU INTERNATIONAL FILM SERIES “Exile and Migration” will be the theme of International Film Series in the Gish Theater in Hanna Hall on the Bowling Green State University campus. The films will be screened in the theater on Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. except on April 13 when the film begins at 8. The series explores exile and migration in feature films and documentaries from around the world, including from the US. The second film, “Earth” by Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, will deal with “partition” that divided India and Pakistan in 1947. Another focuses on North African migration to West Germany in the 1970s. “The Second Migration” (African-American migration from the South to the Northern cities) will be featured in a documentary in addition to the Zainichi, Korean migrants living in Japan and affiliated with North Korea. A Cuban film, “Balseros,” about the rafters who attempted to migrate to the US, is also scheduled. We end with a contemporary Senegalese film about migration via the Atlantic to Spain. The films will be introduced by the filmmakers on March 22 and 29 or by BGSU faculty members.   On 22 March, the film viewing will be preceded by a reception at 6:30 in front of the Gish Theater in the hallway.  For the second film screening with the filmmaker present (March 29), a second reception will be held after the screening. This is the last semester before the Gish will be relocated to the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Scheduled films are: MARCH 22 “Persona Non Grata” (2015) Directed by Cellin Gluck, Japan Moving biopic about Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, sometimes called a “Japanese Schindler,” who issued several thousand visas to Jewish refugees in Lithuania before 1941. The film made its U.S. debut at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival in 2016. MARCH 23 “Earth” (1999) Directed by Deepa Meethe, Canada/India This award-winning period drama is set in Lahore (Pakistan) during the 1947 partition separating India and Pakistan. One of the few films to explore the haunting ramifications of Partition, it focuses on the point of view of a young girl torn between allegiances. MARCH 29 “Montréal la Blanche (Montreal, White City)” (2016) Directed by Bachir Bensaddek, French Canada The story about a former Algerian pop-star who has fled to Canada to escape the Algerian Civil War (late 1990s) and who finds herself in a taxi cab one Christmas Eve in Montreal with an Algerian cab driver and is forced to confront personal questions of assimilation and identity. APRIL 5 “Goin’ to Chicago” (1994) Directed by George King, U.S.A. This documentary chronicles the Great Migration (1915 1960) by focusing on the personal struggles, including unemployment, sharecropping, and racism, of a group of African-Americans returning home to Greenville, Mississippi by bus from Chicago. APRIL 12 “Balseros (Rafters)” (2002) Directed by Carles Bosch & Josep Maria Domenech, Spain This award-winning documentary tracks the lives of Cubans who fled Cuba by raft during the economic depression of so-called Periodo especial in the early 1990s. The transnational film gives insight into the “human adventure of people who are shipwrecked between two worlds.” APRIL 13 “Ali: Angst essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul)” (1974) Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, (West) Germany This award-winning drama explores the unusual love affair between a young Moroccan guest worker and an elderly German cleaning lady in…


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 here as immigrants. We all come for the same reasons.” Centuries ago, however, they were referred to as “pioneers,” said Lucy Long. Efforts will be made to put human faces on immigration. Lander and Parks are hoping to work on a variety of programs for WBGU-TV, panel discussions at the library, and an oral history project.


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. The group is also planning to push for changes at the local and state levels. “Where we’re not going to be fighting such an uphill battle,” Schackow said. Most of the larger cities in Ohio have declared themselves as “welcoming communities” for immigrants. Bowling Green took that step last year. Gov. John Kasich came out strongly last fall in support of Dreamers, so advocates are hoping to meet with him. “We want to make the whole state of Ohio welcoming…