Immigration

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…


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…


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…


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…


‘Isms’ give power to prejudice by labeling people

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Racism. Sexism, Ageism. Classism. Those “isms” tacked onto the ends of words stand for prejudice combined with power. The words define systematic prejudice – made easier by lumping people under a label. Earlier this month, Not In Our Town Bowling Green held another workshop at the library – this one specifically on “isms.” Everyone at the workshop could identify as a victim of at least one “ism.” There were “foreigners” and “feminists.”  There were people who stood out due to their color or their politics. The workshop was led by Dr. Krishna Han, assistant director of the BGSU Office of Multicultural Affairs. Han, originally from Cambodia, speaks five languages. Sometimes he can’t immediately find the English word that he is searching for. So, his strength sometimes appears to be a weakness when people judge Han’s intelligence by his occasional halting English. That and the color of his skin mean that Han may forever be looked upon as a foreigner in the U.S. – no matter how many years he had been here or the fact that he is an American citizen. “Generalization is dangerous – period,” Han said. Han tires of hearing people say, “Worry about your own country … This is my country,” he said. Even stereotypes that paint favorable pictures of people – such as all Asians being smart and hardworking – are harmful. “Any stereotype is negative,” said Ana Brown, a member of NIOT and BGSU administration member. Han asked the group to identify the hurtful comments directed to them in the past. “What do you never again want people to say, think or do toward your group?” For Yaohan Chen, an Asian-American, it was easy. “Go back to where you came from, or that we are not part of America and shouldn’t have a say in America,” Chen said. Then there’s the common, “Are immigrants stealing benefits? Are they benefitting society or not?” Margaret Montague, of NIOT, recalled a speaker originally from India being frequently asked how often…


BGSU receives federal money to study migration

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS The movement of people from place to place is centuries old. As part of human history, migration is integral to the story of the human race and modern society. Bowling Green State University has been awarded major funding under a new grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Understanding Migration: Local and Global Perspectives,” co-authored by Dr. Christina Guenther, world languages and cultures, and Dr. Vibha Bhalla, ethnic studies, has been funded for the full amount of $100,000. The new Humanities Connections grant is designed to encourage undergraduate students across the country to develop the intellectual skills and habits of mind that the humanities cultivate. In this first round of grant awards, BGSU was the only recipient in Ohio. The grant provides for professional development for faculty members in summer 2017 to design four new one-credit “1910” freshman seminar classes offered in the fall: “Immigrant Ohio in the 21st Century,” “Changing Faces of Europe: Contemporary Voices of Migration,” “The Great Migration,” and “Searching for Memories: Mexican (Im)Migration to Northwest Ohio.” The four seminars will then be expanded into general education courses and may qualify students for a Migration Studies certificate for those who complete all four. A second set of courses will be developed and launched in fall 2018. Topics may include “Transnational Ohio,” “Negotiating the Mediterranean: France and North Africa” and “Contemporary African Migration to the US.” Also supported by the grant will be BGSU’s third annual “Immigrant Ohio” symposium in fall 2017, and a community film festival on the topic of migration. BGSU faculty have been studying migration for years, and in 2015, Bhalla organized the first “Immigrant Ohio” event to mark the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act. Around the same time, Guenther organized a research cluster in which faculty members from various disciplines draw on historical, literary and socio-cultural approaches in migration studies. The grant proposal grew out of that cluster. “We thought that we could do something in migration studies that’s very different, that…


Solidarity committee supports undocumented immigrants

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Between the words “illegal” and “undocumented” sits a gulf of misunderstanding. Reading stories on the concern and fear in the immigrant community, a number of people write: “They’re illegal.” For them that settles the matter. For those who work with and advocate for immigrants who lack the proper paperwork to continue living in a place that has become their home, that response neglects their history and day-to-day fears. Those fears are real, according to Beatriz Maya of La Conexion de Wood County. When La Conexion hosted a session with legal experts from Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Toledo, some undocumented immigrants were unwilling to show up for fear of being identified. The meeting, though, was well attended by those who want to stand in provide the voice for their undocumented neighbors and want to work on their behalf. That Immigrant Solidarity Committee will hold an ice cream social including a silent auction Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 126 S. Church St., in Bowling Green. The event will spread awareness, discuss future plans, and raise money to help with expenses undocumented residents may have because of sudden deportations. “They are really afraid,” Maya said. “If they were afraid before, now it was just terror. They didn’t want to go to rally. We need people who can do solidarity work and be the voice of the immigrant community.” Margaret Weinberger, of Bowling Green, was one of those who attended the March session. The stories she heard about what is happening as close as Lucas County were chilling, she said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement followed a man who was bringing his daughter to school. They waited for him to drop her off – they are ill-equipped to handle children – and then apprehended the father, Weinberger said. He didn’t get a telephone call. Undocumented immigrants have no rights. His wife had no idea where he was. An ABLE lawyer, Maya said, spelled out what under the law someone stopped can…


Velasquez finds his fight for immigrant laborers to be more urgent than ever

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Toledo area has anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 undocumented immigrants. But every week, more are rounded up and shipped out from the Toledo airport, according to farm labor leader Baldemar Velasquez. “Every Tuesday morning, there are more men and women in shackles being boarded onto planes,” Velasquez said Sunday afternoon. Many are being sent back to Mexico through expedited deportations, without being allowed to see an attorney and without being given their due process, he said. “I don’t know how they are getting away with that,” Velasquez said about ICE and border patrol. “One-hundred years from now, people will look back at us like they do the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” when the law required escaped slaves to be returned to their owners, he said. “The fact that we are accommodating such a practice is un-American.” Velasquez grew up as a migrant farm laborer, born in Texas and traveling from field to field in the Midwest. Based on those experiences he went on to create the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, in response to the poor treatment of farm workers. That organization, celebrating its 50th anniversary, still works to achieve justice for migrant workers. Velasquez, who spoke Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church north of Bowling Green, grew up dirt poor, with a work ethic stronger than most of his white classmates, and with stamina that just didn’t quit. “You always have to finish the job,” he said. “You start that row, you’ve got to finish it. You start that field, you’ve got to finish it. When you’re a farm worker, it doesn’t matter” if you are tired. As an adult, Velasquez has fought for decent pay for farm laborers through FLOC. “Give us a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. That’s all we want.” Using boycotts and other strategies, FLOC fought in the past for the laborers in the fields and scored victories over giants like Campbell Soup, Vlasic and Mount Olive pickles. Velasquez is still fighting for farm…


BG City Council condemns unjustified deportations

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Words matter – especially when they make up the title of an official resolution. Bowling Green City Council revisited its “welcoming and safe community” resolution Monday evening – this time with new wording and unanimous support. Though the body of the resolution had only one minor revision, the major change was the title rewritten to explain exactly what was intended. 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.” “I’m very happy with the language that we have here,” said council member Daniel Gordon. 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.” Monday was a lesson that not only words matter, but so does communication. When the resolution first came to council last month, some members knew nothing about its intent and couldn’t discern its purpose from the title. “I found it very confusing,” council member Bob McOmber said. The vague title read as if it was intended to be an “all encompassing welcoming resolution.” So last month, when citizens in the council chambers asked that the LGBT community and people with disabilities be added to the resolution, McOmber agreed. When it came time for a vote on the original resolution, McOmber suggested that the wording be more inclusive. So the issue was tabled for further discussion. “I now know the real purpose is to do something for immigrants and refugees,” he said Monday evening. But that raised another concern for McOmber, who didn’t want city council to take a position on the national debate. “I was afraid we were taking some position on undocumented immigrants,” he said. “I don’t think it’s city council’s job to figure that out.” So the wording was tweaked to say council was opposed to “unjustified deportation” of immigrants. Gordon said the resolution was written specifically with the immigrant population…


Activists describe the heartbreak, terror of undocumented immigrants today

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News   The immigration debate is about more than walls. It’s about families trapped by laws and borders that separate them. Eugenio Mollo, Jr., managing attorney with ABLE has those difficult conversations. A father of three, here without documents, telling him his mother is dying in Mexico. If he goes to see her, he’s at risk of not be able to return to his wife and American-born children. What can he do? Mollo can explain the law, but he has no good answer to give him. The client loves his family in America and yet the law poses the choice of being separated from them or comforting his mother in her dying days. He asks: What kind of heartless system is this? This is the system we have, and it is a system that has become more unforgiving since Donald Trump has moved into the White House, Mollo said. Mollo and Beatrix Maya, director general of La Conexion de Wood County, took part on a panel Developing Strategies to Mobilize Our Communities as part of STRELLA: 7th Annual Conference of Student Research on Latino/A/X and Latin American Studies. “The current climate has created an environment of fear and alarm in the community,” Maya said. “The greatest challenge we are facing in organizing the community is the fact that the community is absolutely terrified.” The Trump Administration plans to add 10,000 new border agents, and to double to 80,000 the number of people it incarcerates for immigration problems. Work place raids have increased, she said. None have occurred in Wood County, though a raid in Montpelier staged to find an individual netted eight people. People are apprehended after traffic stops. La Conexion’s efforts to get members of the immigrant community more engaged in public life are no dormant, since people wish to stay under the radar. Instead, she said, the group is working with people to plan for the possibility that a family member, maybe a parent with children, is deported. Of those considered undocumented, 66…


Alberto Gonzalez finds distinction close to home

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Professor Alberto Gonzalez has come a long way and not far at all. The first time Alberto Gonzalez set foot on the Bowling Green State University campus was when he and his twin brother, Gil, arrived to move into Kohl Hall. Sons of a Mexican American worker from nearby Sandusky County, they hadn’t done college visits. For them even heading 30 miles west to Bowling Green was a major move. In a way it was their generation’s migration. Their grandparents had been born in Mexico. Their parents were born in south Texas. They grew up in rural Riley Township near Fremont, and now they were attending college. Alberto Gonzalez graduated from BGSU in 1977 before continuing his graduate work in communications at Ohio State where he earned a doctorate. He ended up returning home to teach, and at its February meeting the university’s board of trustees named him a distinguished university professor. Gonzalez, who has taught at the university since 1992, was pleased with the honor for more than what it said about him. “For me it brings attention to the School of Communications and speaks to the quality of work, the quality of research done in this school,” he said on a recent interview. “You never do anything isolation. All the things I’ve been able to accomplish is because of having great colleagues around me and having great doctoral students. I learn from them and publish with them.” In the resolution approved by trustees one of his former students, Eun Young Lee, was quoted as saying: “He provides me with a model for what it truly means to be an academic, which I am now trying to pass on to my students. … He has made me genuinely believe in and adopt the pedagogical value that each student in college deserves hearty and sincere guidance.” Gonzalez said that the honor for him is also gives affirmation and encouragement to faculty of color and students of color. Gonzalez has built his career on the…


Rally supports immigrants fearful of deportation

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The crowd of 150 sang, “This Land is Our Land,” for those too fearful to sing themselves. Beatriz Maya talked to local undocumented immigrant families before Sunday’s rally held in the city’s downtown green space. But none felt safe enough to attend. “They are very afraid,” said Maya, of La Conexion of Wood County. Recent executive orders by President Donald Trump, are not only keeping people from coming to the U.S., but they are also forcing people back to their homelands. In many cases, families are being broken up as parents are being deported and children born in the U.S. are allowed to stay. Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., many have children, said Flor Hernandez. “Families will be torn apart,” she said. “We need to stick together and protect the children of immigrants.” Deportation roundups have not occurred here in Wood County, Maya said. But the nearby cities of Napoleon and Wauseon have seen some residents deported, she added. “We think it’s a matter of time.” Efforts are being discussed to create rapid response teams in some communities to prepare for ICE raids. “We have to keep thinking of strategies,” Maya. A local pastor shouted out from the crowd, asking if churches should be setting up sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. “We will welcome churches who might be willing to get involved,” Maya said. The recent push for deportations is not targeting just high risk undocumented immigrants, said Luis Moreno. Simple traffic violations can result in deportations. “If you break the law, you will be deported immediately,” he said. “This is an attack against immigrants.” Maya explained that many residents from Mexico came to the U.S. after NAFTA was enacted. Workers were needed to perform the back-breaking low-paying jobs that most Americans wouldn’t accept. Many suffered exploitation, and now under Trump they are suffering criminalization. “We are rapists, we bring drugs,” she said, referring to Trump’s characterization of immigrants from Mexico. Marsha Olivarez warned that without labor from…


BG residents rally to support immigrants

About 150 people have gathered Sunday evening on the green space in downtown Bowling Green to condemn the Trump Administration’s recent executive orders on immigration and to offer support to the migrants in their midst. Tighter immigration laws and enforcement threaten not just to keep people out but to break up American families now in the country. Beatriz Maya of La Conexion de Wood County said workers come here to work at jobs others do not want. Driving them out will hurt the economy. The rally is scheduled to last until 6 p.m.


La Conexion will hold rally Sunday

La Conexion de Wood County will hold a rally on Sunday, Feb 26 at 5 p.m. in Bowling Green’s Green Space across Church Street from the police station. The rally is being help to express support and solidarity for immigrants following the issuance of the Trump Administration’s recent executive orders on immigration. The rally is also in support of the city’s and Bowling Green State University’s efforts to build welcoming, safe and inclusive communities.