Immigrant Ohio 2018

Quilts memorialize migrants who die seeking refuge in the United States

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Migrants searching for a better life in the United States, a life free from violence and poverty, sometimes find a lonely death in the wastelands along the border. The Tucson Sector is the most deadly. And just as American economic and political policies have left many in Central America with little recourse but to flee, so American border policies have funneled them into the most deadly terrain. Since the late 1990s, an average of 150 migrants a year died in the area. Jody Ipsen, a quilter and writer, was backpacking in the area when she came upon what had been a camp for migrants. They’d left behind clothes and embroidered towels that are used to wrap tortillas. She found these traces of their passage through the area touching. That inspired the Migrant Quilt Project. Ipsen and curator and quilter Peggy Hazard visited Bowling Green State University this week as part of the annual Immigrant Ohio seminar. The quilts that have been produced by the project are on display through Dec. 7 on the fourth and fifth floors of Jerome Library on campus. Ipsen collects what the migrants throw away and then with the help of quilters, creates memorials to those who have died. Ipsen said she never  uses material from a site where someone has died out of respect and so as not to interfere with the medical examination of the site. As barriers have been put in place at the locations that are easier to cross, migrants have shifted into the harsher areas. This is part of US policy, she said. Officials say they hope the difficulty will deter migrants. That has not been the case. Thousands have died. “Death by deterrence,” Ipsen called it. The quilts serve as a reminder of their deaths, she said. Each quilt has an inscription for each person who has died, whether the person’s name or simply as unknown, or “desconocido,” for the many whose remains have not been identified. This is a reminder, Ipsen said, that these were people with families and friends. Ipsen told the story of three women whose stories she researched. Prudencia Martin Gomez headed north to find her boyfriend Ismael. He’d had to flee Guatemala because of lingering resentment over his father’s involvement in Army atrocities during the country’s 30-year-long civil war.  Prudencia was hoping to surprise him on his birthday. “She never made it,” Ipsen said. She showed an image of Prudencia’s body as it was found in the desert. While warning the audience of graphic nature, she said people also needed to see the reality  of the crisis. Ipsen choked up. She had talked to the families and came to know these women and what their loss meant to their survivors. “It’s really painful for me to talk about.” Yolanda Garcia Gonzalez left with her 18-month-old daughter when the local agricultural economy collapsed following the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. The agreement allowed a flood of cheap American corn, rice and beans into the country. Small subsistence farmers, Ipsen said, could not compete. Their centuries-old farm system collapsed in a matter of months. “It’s no wonder people are coming to the country that is unequivocally responsible for dismantling their small scale economies,” Ipsen said. Migration and death along the borders skyrocketed over this time. So Yolanda headed north to meet her husband who was working in Texas. She did not make it. She gave her last few ounces of water to her daughter, who was found alive, and now lives with her grandmother. Lucrecia Dominguez also came to…


Immigration Ohio symposium to focus on migrant workers

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Undocumented immigrants are a common topic in the news these days. Bowling Green State University will address some of the issues during the third annual Immigrant Ohio symposium from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, in 228 Bowen-Thompson Student Union. “Living in the Shadows: Undocumented Lives and Labor” is the theme this year for the event, which is free and open to the public. “Migrant Workers in Ohio: A Brief History” starts the morning session at 9:30 a.m. Presenters include Luis Moreno, a lecturer in BGSU’s Department of Ethnic Studies; Maria Goeser of Jobs and Family Services, Ohio; and Michelle Sweetser and Megan Goins-Diouof of the BGSU Center for Archival Collections. The panelists for the 10:45 a.m. session, “Ohio’s Economy and Migrant Workers,” are Jack Irvin, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation; Sandy Munley, Ohio Landscapers Assoc.; Janet Quaintance (Sandusky County) and Mary DeWittt (Wood County), both of Ohio Means Jobs, Jobs and Family Services. The afternoon sessions focus on community perspectives, legal perspectives and local and national perspectives “After the ICE Raids.” The 1 p.m. session focusing on community perspectives features Francisco Carillo, pastoral associate from St. Paul’s Catholic Church; Natalia Alonso, a Fremont-area teen who started  Los Ninos de Corsos, a grassroots campaign to help children of workers arrested in the ICE raid at Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Castalia; Jimmy Rodriquez of Willard, Ohio, whose father was one of the individuals detained after the Corso’s ICE raid; and Victor Leandry, executive director of El Centro of Lorain, Ohio. The legal perspectives “After the ICE Raids” begins at 2 p.m. Panelists include Lynn Tramonte, founder and director of Ohio Immigrant Alliance; Theresa Miller, a representative from U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s office (Ohio’s 9th District); and Eugenio Mollo, managing attorney for the agricultural worker and immigrant rights practice group with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc. (ABLE). As part of the local and national perspectives, Linda Lander and Amanda Schackow will present “Solidarity at Work: The La Conexion Solidarity Committee” at 3 p.m. Carmen Alvarez, a lecturer in BGSU’s Department of World Languages and Cultures, and Michaela Django Walsh, an assistant professor in BGSU’s Ethnic Studies department, are also part of the 3 p.m. panel, discussing “Questioning U.S.-born Latino Citizenship” and “En/forced Exile and Migrant Be-longing in President Trump’s America.” The final session for the day will be an introduction to the Migrant Quilt Project. Jody Ipsen, founder of the project, will present “Dispatches from the Desert and the Immigrant Equation” at 4 p.m., followed by curator Peggy Hazard, who will address “The Migrant Quilt Project History and Practice.” At 5:15, participants are invited to the official opening reception of the Migrant Quilt Project at Jerome Library, where the exhibition will be on display through Dec. 7 in the Ray and Pat Browne Popular Culture Library and the Center for Archival Collections. Details of the symposium and the exhibition are available at bgsu.edu/immigrationevent. Guests with disabilities are requested to indicate if they need special services, assistance or appropriate modifications to fully participate in this event by contacting Accessibility Services at access@bgsu.edu or 419-372-8495 prior to the event.