Immigration

36 immigrants take oath to join the ranks of Americans

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Ping Liu came to the United States 16 years ago from southern China. In the intervening year, she’s come to love her adopted home, and on Monday she sealed that by becoming a citizen. Now she wants to use her new power as a citizen to insure the openness to immigrants that she experienced is maintained. Ping, who has studied for a Master’s in Business Administration program at Bowling Green State University, was one of 36 immigrants from 20 countries from four continents who became citizens at the Naturalization Ceremony hosted by BGSU. As U.S. District Judge James R. Knepp told them: “You don’t just live here, now you own the place.” Liu, who is a senior development engineer in research and development at First Solar, said that the United States gave her, her husband, and her son, himself a newly naturalized citizen who studies at Ohio State, a chance to advance their educations. Both Liu and her husband came to study for doctorates at Michigan State. Liu said she’d already worked for about eight years in industry in China before she arrived not long before the 9-11 terrorist attacks. She worked in Arizona after getting her PhD before returning to the region to work first at Owens-Illinois and now at First Solar. “In this country, there’s a lot of opportunity and they’re open to foreigners,” she said before the ceremony. “Those are the two sides we appreciate a lot.” Still she’s seen in the last year more negativity toward immigrants. “I can see that the atmosphere not as open.” She’s not experienced that herself, but she’s read the reports of “discrimination and tragedy” and seen the comments on social media. That has her concerned, and though she’s not that interested in politics, she will use her new citizenship to see that others have the opportunity her family has had. “I love this country, and I benefit a lot,” she said. “It provides opportunity for foreigners.” Her travels around the world make her appreciate what the United States has to offer. Liu also understands what immigrants contribute to this country.  “That’s why America can grow, when we work and contribute our talents. In my work, I can help resolve problems and can help industry grow.” U.S. District Judge Sarah Lioi, who presided over the ceremony with Knepp, echoed those sentiments. “It is the energy that you bring and that other immigrants have that  … makes our country strong.” Danijela Tomic, the BGSU women’s volleyball coach, spoke about her journey to becoming an American, and the lengthy process she and others have to go through to earn citizenship. She arrived in the United States in 1995 to play volleyball at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. She didn’t know any English, but she knew volleyball. She…


Scarlet Sevits: Fear & stigma of refugees “distort the very ideals this nation was founded on”

  The fact that we associate the area of the Middle East with terrorism is a fundamentally incorrect generalization.  This generalization has grown into a dangerous stigma that puts blinders on our view of the world, and it’s time we acknowledge and fight it. Imagine a person from the Middle East.  It’s more than likely that the image you conjure in your mind includes two very essential links: Muslim and terrorism.  We tend to associate the general area of the Middle East with the religion of Islam, and Islam has become linked to terrorism.  This stigma surrounding Middle Eastern countries has come to play a dangerous role in how we consider immigration reform in the United States.  Because we associate entire nations with the threat of terrorism, entire nations are barred from entry into the U.S.   Some context might help.  The immigration ban in this country has gone through three iterations.  The first barred entry for citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.  The second iteration excluded Iraq from the list of nations.  The most recent version includes Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.  Six of these nations have Muslim-heavy populations, an attribute of the immigration law that has not changed throughout the iterations, and from which most of the constitutional problems with the law arise.  In the latest ban, criteria given for why the specific countries were chosen was boiled down to the fact that these nations did not comply with the United States’ security requirements.  This reason was not included in the first to versions of the ban, which clearly says to me that this criteria was added to improve the legality of an otherwise illegal and unconstitutional ban. Immigration has been a foundational aspect of the United States since its inception.  My own grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in 1956 as they fled Soviet oppression.  Imagine if my grandparents had been lumped together with some of the radical rebels that were fighting in the Hungarian Revolution at the time.  Imagine if they had been deemed “dangerous” based on the actions of a few of their kinsman.  I would not be alive if not for the opening arms of the United States, and yet, so many others are being denied this chance at life right now by our country.  Danger isn’t even a part of the question any more, because danger has been equated with race and religion. This denial stems from a stigma that clouds our perception of the Middle East.  In the United States, we have a strong bias towards Western ideals and culture, and anything that is different we tend to label as dangerous.  This applies to the religion of Islam and its relation to terrorism.  This stigma is slowly destroying one of the most…


Naturalization ceremony, Vagabrothers part of International Education Week at BGSU

Bowling Green State University will celebrate International Education Week 2017 Nov. 13-18. Presented by International Programs and Partnerships, the week is a community celebration of global culture and diversity, with free activities open to all, and opportunities to learn about everything from international careers to international travel. Highlighting the week on Thursday (Nov. 16) will be a visit by the globetrotting Vagabrothers, award-winning travel videographers photographers and writers. The brothers, Marko and Alex Ayling, are globally engaged storytellers on a mission to explore the planet by connecting with other young people and inspiring viewers to do the same. Students will gain knowledge, advice and general travel tips through the brothers’ experience of visiting more than 30 countries. Their entertaining talk begins at 7 p.m. in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom at the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Students can get important information on working abroad at the International Career Panel Discussion, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 15) in 208 Union. A panel of five professionals with experience working in international education, business, nonprofits and government will share their stories and offer advice to students considering similar careers. Jeffery Jackson, Career Center director, will facilitate the discussion. The week’s events begin Monday (Nov. 13) when BGSU hosts a naturalization ceremony for 36 new citizens at 11 a.m. in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom at the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Among those being naturalized are a current student, Ping Liu from China, in the professional MBA program, and former student Matias Razo Alvizo from Mexico, who attended BGSU Firelands from 2009-11. Two BGSU alumni will officiate: U.S. District Court Magistrate James Knepp, a 1987 BGSU graduate in mass communication, and U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi, a 1983 graduate in political science. Danijela Tomic, BGSU head women’s volleyball coach, will be the guest speaker. A native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tomic became a U.S. citizen in September. In honor of the occasion, international student organizations will have displays and information at the tables outside Falcon Outfitters. That evening, a Diversity and Education Abroad discussion will take place from 6-7 p.m. in 314 Union. A diverse student panel of students who successfully participated in an education abroad experience will share how they overcame barriers both real and perceived. On Tuesday, the third generation of Hoskins Global Scholars who have returned from their education abroad stays will give presentations about their experiences from 1-5 p.m. in 201 University Hall. The second Immigrant Ohio conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom at the Union. Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities grant “Understanding Migration: Local and Global Perspectives,” the day includes panel discussions, keynote speaker Anne Marie McGranaghan, United Nations High Commission for Refugees representative and a BGSU alumna, and a special photo exhibit in the Jerome Library of portraits of refugees from three continents. Also Tuesday, International Open Mic Night…


BG gets tips on how to become ‘welcoming community’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green has declared itself a “welcoming community.” But what does that really mean? And how exactly can it be accomplished? Earlier this year at the urging of the city’s Human Relations Commission, Bowling Green City Council adopted a resolution stating the city was welcoming. “All communities say they are welcoming,” said Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, co-chair of the Human Relations Commission. “We always know any community can be better.” The commission wants Bowling Green and its residents to view immigrants as a benefit – not a detriment to the community – and to realize the economics of immigration. Several cities in the “rust belt” have started looking at immigrants in a different light than some areas of the nation. In many Midwest cities, immigrants are now seen as a solution to critical labor shortages and as ways to strengthen the local economy Several manufacturers in Bowling Green have expressed concerns recently about the labor force being too small to fill their needs. So last week, Bowling Green welcomed home Steve Tobocman, whose great-grandfather immigrated to this community in the beginning of the 20th century after fleeing the persecution of Jews in Russia. Tobocman is executive director of Global Detroit, which works to leverage international talent to fill businesses’ unmet needs, help immigrant entrepreneurs, revitalize neighborhoods, and build an inclusive region. Tobocman, an attorney and former Michigan state legislator, complimented Bowling Green for taking the first step to becoming a truly welcoming community. “I congratulate your group for what you have done already,” he said – stressing that it is a big step for a community like Bowling Green, which is made up of just 2 percent “newcomers.” “To say that’s pretty profound,” Tobocman said of the city’s resolution. The current political climate has stirred a lot of discussion about what it means to be an American, Tobocman said. “Immigrant welcoming works best when it’s rooted in the national character,” he said. Immigrants and refugees “will be here beyond this temporary debate.” But smart communities are talking about the “economics of welcoming.” Tobocman works with several such cities in Michigan and Ohio. “These are all communities that on their own have decided it is in their own self interest to be welcoming to immigrants and newcomers,” he said. Many are larger cities with distressed economic centers – like Detroit. “They’ve all created their own niche” to attract newcomers. On the whole, America’s rust belt sees fewer immigrants. In the last 15 years, the rust belt population grew by 4 percent – compared to 15 percent for the overall nation. Of the Midwest’s largest cities, most lost population from 1960 to 1980. The only cities to see a rebound were those that experienced major immigrant growth, Tobocman said. Detroit is one of those…


Treehouse Troupe takes “New Kid” on the road to share lessons about tolerance

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bullying is an international language. That’s a lesson Nic learns on her first day in an American school. She had moved with her family to the United States from Homeland, not speaking English, and now she must adjust to life among strangers. That’s the plot of “New Kid,” a play by Dennis Foon being staged in schools around the region by Bowling Green State University’s Treehouse Troupe. Recently the troupe staged “New Kid” in the atrium of the Wood County Public Library for home-schooled students and students from St. Aloysius. We meet Nic played by Shannan Bingham and her mother played by Kristyn Curnow as they discuss leaving their country Homeland. The backdrop is colorful and their costumes are an iridescent green. Though they say they don’t know English, their lines come out as English, and the audience knows what they are saying. Soon Nic is in her new school, shyly joining two other students, Mencha (Autumn Chisholm) and Mug (Harmon Andrews) at recess. Before she comes out the audience gets to listen in on Mencha and Mug’s conversation. Not that it will do them any good. They’re animated as they chat but the words frustrate comprehension. Clearly it’s a language, just not one we understand. Nor as it turns out any other language. The actors’ body gestures, make it clear that they are negotiating some sort of exchange. The language was made up by the playwright to give youngsters a sense of what it’s like to be in a place where you can’t understand what anyone else is saying. Nic has a rough time. Mug starts by teasing and then taunts her, even breaking the bowl her friends back in Homeland gave her as a going away present. She learns one word “Groc,” an ethnic slur. She flees school. Nic returns to school the next day intent of staying away from the others. But Mencha proves to be a good hearted sort who befriends her and helps her deal with Mug’s bullying. Emily Aguilar, who directs the troupe, said she was attracted to the script because it tackles the subject of bullying specifically as it relates to immigration in a way that appeals to a wide age range of students. The play has been staged for students from kindergarten to grade 8. Dealing with xenophobia is important “especially today in our current climate,” she said. Younger and older students react to the play in their own ways. The youngest enjoy the comedy, while the older enjoy the drama and the relationships among the characters. One element they all seem interested in is where’s Nic’s father? He doesn’t appear in the play. Instead we’re told he works all the time. And though he was a teacher back in Homeland, here he works in another job….


Global Detroit leader to speak on immigrant & the economy

Building Global: Welcoming Immigrants and Economic Growth, a conversation with Steve Tobocman, of Global Detroit, will be presented Thursday November 2, 2017, 6-7:30 p.m. in the  Atrium of the Wood County Public Library, Bowling Green. Since 2009,  Tobocman has spearheaded Global Detroit, www.globaldetroit.com, and led the creation and growth of the Welcoming Economies Global Network , a regional Network of over a dozen regional economic development initiatives from across the Midwest working to address critical labor shortages and economic revitalization needs by tapping into the economic development opportunities created by immigrants as valued contributors to local economies. Tobocman served as the State Representative from Michigan 12th State House focusing his work on economic development. He earned his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School and a Masters in Public Policy from U of M’s Ford School of Public Policy. Event organized by the City of Bowling Green Human Relations Commission, the Welcome BG Task Force, the Bowling Green Economic Development, and the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. Opening remarks by Mayor Edwards.  


La Conexion raises funds to assist DACA dreamers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In a time when businesses are lamenting a lack of workers, the members of La Conexion de Wood County’s Immigrant Solidarity Committee wonder why some people want to make it hard for immigrant laborers to stay here. In its most recent action, the committee launched a fundraising campaign to help those with DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – status stay in the country. The campaign was successful in raising the money to help two local men renew their DACA status. That paperwork costs $495 and must be filed every two years. One of the men Rudy Cruz of Pemberville attended a recent committee meeting to speak about his situation. Cruz came with his parents from Guatemala when he was too young to remember. He also has younger siblings who were born here. Cruz grew up in Pemberville, attended Eastwood schools, and attended Penta Career Center to study carpentry. He graduated in 2016. He now works for Rudolph-Libbe. Recently he spent a week working in Marathon, Florida, helping repair damage from Hurricane Irma. He said he was grateful for the committee for its support. La Conexion is “a nice organization that helps.” Another man who works at a local factory also received support. These are the kind of skilled workers local employers say they need, said Beatriz Maya, the executive director of La Conexion. Immigrants work in all sectors of industry, both low skill and high skill, not just in agriculture. “This is becoming a critical issue,” Maya said. “If we don’t address it, employers who want to expand, to grow, won’t be able to.” Immigration status isn’t the only problem, she said. Many immigrants have difficulty getting the credit reports needed to find housing. La Conexion has also raised funds so family members of immigrants who are here without documents, and cannot get them, can get passports in case their family member is deported and they need to join with them.   Amanda Schackow, a member of the solidarity committee, gave a rundown of the various pieces of legislation addressing DACA. The Dream Act, she said, “is the one to fight for. It covers the most people. … It essentially expands what we have under DACA.” La Conexion members visited U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s field office recently, but came away without a clear idea about where the Republican congressman stood. The committee also has several projects in the works. Linda Lander explained she is working with the Wood County Public Library on compiling oral histories, both audio and videotaped, documenting the family immigration stories of area residents. La Conexion is sponsoring two upcoming events. On Saturday, Oct. 14 from 6 p.m. to midnight, there will be a celebration of Hispanic Heritage at the Veterans Building in City Park with dance, music and…


Afghan-American artist dials up the voices of immigrants

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A telephone booth sits on the edge of Promenade Park in Toledo. Inside the telephone rings. When I pick up the ringer a woman is speaking in a language I don’t recognize, never mind understand. She is in mid-statement. The passion in her voice pierces through the language barrier. When the translator comes on, I learn she is from Tibet, now living in New York City. She fled Tibet because the Chinese killed her family. She has freedom now. “If I was living in Tibet, I wouldn’t have freedom.” This is at once a voice from far away, yet speaking from the heart of America. The telephone booth is archaic, yet it gives voice to current concerns. The booth and two others in located around Toledo are part of “Once Upon a Place,” an art installation created by Afghan-American artist Aman Mojadidi. The telephone booths went up in Promenade Park, the library at the University of Toledo, and the main branch library of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library several weeks ago and will remain in place through Oct. 22. The installation was displayed earlier this year in Times Square in New York City, where it was created. Mojadidi recently spoke to students at the Bowling Green State University School of Art about the project, his life, and his career. “What I was interested in with this project was to show how cities small and large, including Toledo, have been built by people who came from other countries,” he said. As the United States’  “flagship city,” New York seemed the place to bring that idea to fruition. Almost 37 percent of its population is foreign born as is about 12 percent of the nation’s population. He started working on “Once Upon a Place” more than a year ago, just as the presidential campaign was heating up, and Donald Trump was stirring up his followers with anti-immigration rhetoric. It was also when New York City was removing the last of its public phone booths. Using a telephone booth involves “incredible intimacy,” Mojadidi said. People close themselves into the booth to converse. “It’s a full experience.” “I was interested in all the stories told through these phones booths in the past and bringing them back to tell a new kind of story, immigrant stories.” So Mojadidi traveled to different neighborhoods around the city, selecting those with the greatest diversity of immigrants. He reached out through synagogues, churches, mosques, and through labor and community groups. Mojadidi hung out in cafes and eavesdropped on conversations. He embedded himself into the communities, so he wasn’t just a stranger asking questions. Then he sat down to record people’s stories of how they came to this country.  It was not easy. “Immigrants were afraid,” he said, because of “the anti-immigrant xenophobia sprouting…


Immigrant Solidarity Committee to gather Oct. 1

From LA CONEXION DE WOOD COUNTY La Conexion de Wood County’s Immigrant Solidarity Committee will hold a gathering on Sunday Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. in the meeting  room of the First Presbyterian Church on South Church Street in Bowling Green. This will not be a formal meeting, but instead an opportunity to plan and share ideas about upcoming projects including a partnership with the Wood County Library to build oral histories of immigration stories, November’s event hosting Steve Tobocman of Global Detroit, and more. Light snacks and beverages will be available. (Infused water included.) La Conexion also been approached by a DACA recipient from Fostoria who is need of support in covering the $495 renewal fee and donations will be accepted on the recipient’s behalf. Donations are not required, but will be much appreciated. If more money than is needed is collected, the balance will be held to help to assist any other DACA recipients who come forward needing assistance, or to help families who need assistance in paying for legal documents such as certified birth certificates, government issues passports or IDs, or other official documents they need in order to ensure that their family can remain together. Families in need are identified by La Conexion’s services or through referrals from ABLE’s Immigrant Rights program. Those unable to attend but would like to help support this DACA recipient, can mail your donation to La Conexion directly: La Conexion P.O. Box 186 Bowling Green, OH 43402 Include a note in the memo line or include a message indicating the donation is to support DACA related fees, as well as a return address so that we can send you a receipt. The church parking lot on the Grove St. side of the church will be available (enter through the door with the awning and handicapped walkway). For more information email: laconexionimmigrantsolidarity@gmail.com


Path to U.S. citizenship nearly impossible for most

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   To those who wonder why undocumented immigrants don’t just wait their turn to get into the U.S., Eugenio Mollo Jr. has an answer. It can take 20 years of waiting – and that’s for the lucky ones. “It’s not that easy,” Mollo said Thursday evening during a program on immigration sponsored by LaConexion’s Immigrant Solidarity Committee. The U.S. is operating under immigration law that was adopted in 1952. Prior to then, the law was updated every seven to 12 years. “Now we’ve gone 65 years without any comprehensive immigration reform,” said Mollo, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. Meanwhile, the U.S. now has up to 12 million undocumented immigrants. The nation allows 226,000 Visas to be issued a year, based on family connections, employers who need particular expertise, or due to humanitarian issues. The antiquated system, Mollo said, permits no more than 7 percent of those Visas to go to immigrants of a particular nation. That is a problem for India, China, Mexico and the Philippines, he said. To explain the current system, Mollo used the example of a U.S. citizen having two siblings who wanted a Visa. The sibling from Uganda would have to wait 13 years from when they first applied. The sibling from Mexico would wait at least 19 years. The wait time is likely much longer now. “So many people have applied,” Mollo said. “My job is to help these people climb this immigration ladder,” he said. But the climb is difficult, especially with the federal government toughening standards and considering ending some options for refugees. Adding to the fear and frustration for those seeking to immigrate to the U.S. and those already here, are the rapidly changing rules being pushed by the President Donald Trump administration. There are plans for a border wall, more deportations, the proposed travel ban and now the possible end to the DACA program. Since Trump became president, the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers has more than doubled and the scope on deportations has expanded. Under the presidency of Barack Obama, deportations focused on undocumented immigrants who posed a risk to national security and public safety. But now all undocumented immigrants are subject to deportation, with no prioritization, Mollo said. “We’ve seen ICE go to homes and workplaces to arrest people. What national interest does that advance when we remove hard working parents or children,” he asked. In response to those deportations, ABLE has created a family preparation guide for families with undocumented members. The fears were magnified last week, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end to the DACA program. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, enacted by Obama in 2012, gave protected status to immigrant children who came here before age 16, had earned their…


Afghan-American artist’s installation shares the stories of immigrants

From CONTEMPORARY ART TOLEDO Contemporary Art Toledo and artist Aman Mojadidi bring Once Upon a Place, a set of three interactive public art works that create a platform for immigrant voices, to Toledo beginning September 15. The work will be traveling from New York’s Time Square, where it’s been installed since late June to three Toledo locations: Toledo Lucas County Public Library, the University of Toledo, and Promenade Park, near the new downtown campus of ProMedica. The opening weekend of the exhibition coincides with both Momentum (a three day celebration of art and music in Toledo’s Promenade Park) and National Welcoming Week. He will speak on “Borderless: Art and Migration in Troubled Times,” Sunday, September 17 at 2 p.m. in the McMaster Center, Main Library Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Visitors to the installations will be invited to open the door of a repurposed telephone booth, pick up the receiver, and listen to oral histories of immigrants from across the globe. Visitors can also open the phone book inside each booth to read more about the storytellers’ communities – both in their current home and the countries they have traveled from. Individuals may also wish to leave behind a part of their own story if they choose. The installation includes 70 different stories that last between 2 and 15 minutes each. According to the Pew Research Center, by the year 2065 one in three Americans will be an immigrant or have immigrant parents. Locally, according to a 2015 report by New American Economy, Toledo’s immigrant community is increasing and partially offsetting local population loss. Furthermore, immigrants in Toledo hold close to $242 million in spending power and increased the total housing value in Lucas County by $45.9 million. In current political and social conversations about borders, bans, and citizenship, the word “immigrant” can be used as a monolithic block, sweeping under a single label people from a wide variety of backgrounds. By giving participants a platform to tell their individual stories, Once Upon a Place instead explores a rich variety of personalities and journeys. Listeners are drawn into the lives of current New York residents from Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tibet, and Yemen, bringing an intersection of experiences to the public. The stories featured in Once Upon a Place were recorded by Afghan-American artist Aman Mojadidi over the course several months. His goal was to create a safe environment for residents to share the experiences that brought them to New York, either in English or in their mother tongue. The three phone booths – among the last phone booths to be removed from the streets of New York City – establish an intimate space for…


Citizens gather on Wooster Green to defend DACA

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Yvette Llanas, a lifelong Bowling Green resident and American citizen, never dreamed the threat of deportation would touch her family. Llanas found out last week she was wrong. “I never thought this would affect me,” Llanas said in an impromptu speech on the Wooster Green Sunday evening during a rally opposing President Donald Trump’s action to end DACA. “My daughter-in-law happens to be undocumented,” Llanas said. “The decision made this week just crushed my soul.” Her daughter-in-law came to America as a small child. “This is the only home she knows,” Llanas said. “She is part of our country,” as are her two children. “We are all immigrants here, somehow, some way,” Llanas said. About 60 local residents gathered in the Wooster Green to express their opposition to Trump’s announcement last week that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals 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. Those signing up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. Their status is renewable every two years. “This is really targeting kids who were brought by their parents at a very early age,” said Beatriz Maya, of the La Conexion organization. “They don’t know any other life. It makes no sense for them to be deported. It’s very wrong. They cannot be blamed for anything.” Those attending the rally were asked to contact their congress members about the DACA issue. “The Dreamers don’t want citizenship just for themselves,” Maya said. “They want comprehensive immigration reform for 11 million undocumented immigrants, who have been contributing to the nation for many, many years.” Jorge Chavez, president of the La Conexion organization, presented his comments in Spanish and English. “I am blessed and lucky because I don’t have to be afraid,” said Chavez, who is a BGSU professor, a father and a husband. The DACA program helped about 800,000 people previously at risk of deportation. “This program allowed them to come out of the shadows, to drive, to work,” he said. “They are our friends. They are our neighbors. They are business leaders. They are us. There is no division here,” Chavez said. “America is stronger because of her diversity.” “If they lose out, we all lose out,” he said. “I urge you, we have less than six months to act.” Bowling Green’s city administration was represented at the rally, showing support for DACA. Council member Sandy Rowland read a statement…


BG says ‘welcome’ in many different languages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   On the day that “Dreamers” saw their American status slipping away, Bowling Green residents stood before City Council Tuesday and recited the city’s “welcoming and safe community” resolution in their native languages. “In April, we brought a resolution to City Council about Bowling Green being a welcoming community for immigrants,” said Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, head of the city’s human relations commission, working with La Conexion. The resolution 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, one by one, a group of city residents read a portion of the resolution in Vietnamese, Indian, Hindi, German, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and English. The group also presented council with a “welcoming” poster designed by Ethan Jordan. Beatriz Maya, of La Conexion, said other translations will be added to the city’s website as they become available. “This is a work in progress,” she said. Mayor Dick Edwards praised the translations shared at the meeting. “What a special way of touching all of our hearts,” he said. When City Council adopted the welcoming resolution earlier this year, council member Daniel Gordon pushed for the effort. “I’m very happy with the language that we have here,” Gordon said. Though the issue of illegal immigrant deportations is national, the city wants to take a stand, he said. “Council does not support seeing their families ripped apart.” Gordon said the resolution was written specifically with the immigrant population in mind. The city had recently passed an anti-Islamaphobia resolution, and already protected the LGBT community under a city ordinance. Though undocumented immigration is a national issue, council member John Zanfardino said the city needs to take a stand locally. “People are living with a new level of fear in Bowling Green and everywhere,” Zanfardino said earlier this year. “It’s a national nightmare.” On Tuesday evening, Gordon asked council to take a stand to defend DACA. “These people stand to be torn away from any home they have known,” he said. Gordon suggested that council send letters to U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. “This is something we all should be able to rally behind,” he said.


La Conexion staging “Lights on for Dreamers” action this weekend

La Conexion is urging action to support the DACA program this weekend. The group is urging residents of Bowling Green on Saturday and Sunday from 8 to 9 p.m. to keep front lights on and post short messages to show their support for the Dreamers here under the provisions of DACA. On Sunday La Conexion will hold a rally on Wooster Green from 7 to 8 p.m. Those attending are urged to bring a flashlight, candle, or the light on their telephones to provide “Lights on for Dreamers.” For more information email: laconexionimmigrantsolidarity@gmail.com or visit the group’s page on Facebook.


Locals urge Congress to act to protect Dreamers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Trump Administration’s announcement Tuesday that it would end protection for immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA, has prompted local calls for legislators to step in to protect the so-called Dreamers. Once the announcement was made , Beatriz Maya, the executive director of La Conexion, pulled together a small contingent to deliver a letter to the Bowling Green field office of U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) calling for him to support the Dream Act that is now before Congress. That act would provide protection for these immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents who lacked proper documentation. The act would also provide them and other young immigrants with a path to become citizens. The letter read in part: “We demand that you and all members of Congress take immediate action to protect DACA recipients contributing to communities across the country. We urge you to co-sponsor the bipartisan Dream Act sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sem. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) that would provide a path to citizenship to 1.8 million immigrant youth who grew up calling this country home.” The letter noted it makes no sense in areas reporting labor shortages to deport people who have been educated and trained here. Maya said six people visited the office and spoke with David Wirt, Latta’s district manager, for about 20 minutes. She said they were told that given the announcement was just made, he had not had time to contact Latta to get his position on the matter. Maya noted in an interview later Tuesday that “we were never completely happy with DACA. It was only temporary. It allowed access work and study and in some cases travel abroad. It was limited, but for these kids it was lifesaving.” Now she hopes Congress can improve the situation for young immigrants with the Dream Act. Also supporting the legislation is Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey. At the Tuesday session of faculty senate, she reiterated her support for the Dream Act, and her and other college presidents resolve to do what they can to reverse the administration directive through legislative action. “We’ll continue to work on it and see what we can do so the dreamers can have the opportunity to stay in this country,” she said. In a statement to the campus community, Mazey wrote: “DACA students on our campuses have enriched our learning environment and brought extraordinary talent to our University. I am very hopeful that our DACA students’ legal status will be preserved by Congress.” Dave Kielmeyer, the university’s chief communications officer, said that the university has six DACA students enrolled at BGSU. There are about 800,000 Dreamers nationwide.