Immigration News from July 24-26

Beginning with good news: articles about Richfield Mayor Regan Gonzalez, SEAD’s Phanida Chaengdara Potter, ILCM’s Maylary Apolo, and Austin City Councilmember Oballa Oballa describe their contributions to making Minnesota stronger and more vibrant. 

A Q&A with Richfield Mayor Regan Gonzalez introduces a high-powered, second-generation activist. (Star Tribune)

“After co-launching day-care provider training for the Latino community, spearheading Blue Cross Blue Shield’s health equity program in Minnesota, and fighting apartment purchases that displaced low-income families, it is perhaps no surprise that Richfield Mayor Maria Regan Gonzalez received the 2021 Woman of Power Award from the Minnesota YWCA. Gonzalez, a former City Council member, has been Richfield’s mayor since 2019 and the first woman of color to serve in that position. She reflects on her childhood, racial disparities and her work helping Minnesota families, people of color, and immigrants find decent housing, education, healthy foods and jobs….

“Q: Why this work?

“A: I am a cross-cultural bridge. It is literally in my DNA. I am a bicultural, bilingual, biracial Midwestern Chicana. I grew up playing ice hockey and I grew up going to the cabin on Lake Mille Lacs. My mother is Mexican. And my father grew up in Mora. My grandma is Swedish. My grandfather is Irish. They came to the U.S. following the lumber trade. In my family are immigrants from Mexico. So this work is literally my identity. I help bring people together across differences. I do that well and I love it.” 

“Simply outstanding,” says the Austin Herald. I agree! Congratulations to ILCM’s Maylary Apolo and to Austin city council member Oballa Oballa, honored as refugees who have made big contributions to Minnesota. (Austin Daily Herald)

“These are just two more examples of the contributions made by those coming to Minnesota from outside the United States. Both Apolo and Oballa aren’t simply satisfied to just be citizens. They are putting their efforts and experiences forward to ensure a better future for immigrants to come as well as making our community stronger.

“In some ways, these awards also recognize the City of Austin and the strength of its diversity. We are many nations, but we are also one people and when it’s all said and done, Austin is all the better for it.”

At age three, Phanida Chaengdara Potter came to the United States as a refugee. Now she uses art and story-telling to bring light to all of our communities.(Sahan Journal)

“What does it mean to be AAPI in Minnesota right now?

“I consider myself a very globalized person. I think my background as part of the diaspora is that I’m neither here nor there. So I’m kind of everywhere. I consider myself a futurist in many ways. Being Asian, that label is also fraught with so many complications. I don’t consider myself American because people here don’t consider me American. And I think that’s the hardest thing. 

“One of the most common things that is said to us as Asians is, “Go back to where you come from.” It stings and injures the soul in a very deep way for my parents as well as my siblings and people like me in the Asian communities, as a refugee from Southeast Asia, because I can’t return back to my home. …

“I think what’s beautiful to see now is that that label is being changed. It’s being morphed in many different ways. Being Lao or Vietnamese or other ethnic or indigenous identities from Southeast Asia and Pacific Islanders communities, people are taking back those identities and owning them. I think that’s the most beautiful thing to see. So for me, being Asian here in Minnesota is literally like a hot dish. It’s like a hot dish of many things.”

Farms need migrant workers

Barriers to immigration cost U.S. farmers millions of dollars. Shay Myers, head of Owyhee Produce, testified at a hearing on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. (KIVI TV)

“’This bill isn’t about labor shortages and people skipping ahead of the line. This is about the American dream, the American voter, and the viability of an America that allows the dreamer to dream and the voter to create the change they dream of,’ Myers said.

“In April, Myers invited the public to pick and keep thousands of pounds of asparagus for free because he could not find workers and did want the food to go to waste.

“’This year on our asparagus farm we lost 100% of the season’s profits because we were unable to get domestic labor when Our 36 H2A workers were delayed at the border and arrived 90 days after our date of need. 90 days. We lost nearly 300,000 pounds of asparagus,’ he told the committee.” 

Across the country, farmworkers are immigrant workers. They work long, hard hours at difficult jobs. Their skill and energy feeds the country. Many are undocumented. (The Guardian)

“As the number of dairy farms in Wisconsin declines, the size of dairy farms is increasing; large farms with thousands of cows that require round-the-clock milking, and by extension, a larger workforce. The foreign-born population in Wisconsin has grown by 45% since 2000, with rural counties seeing largest and fastest growth of that population. Immigrant workers make up approximately 40% of the workforce on Wisconsin dairy farms, and up to 90% are undocumented, according to UMOS, a multi-state farmworker advocacy organization, and the largest Hispanic-managed non-profit organization in Wisconsin….

“Jeff, a tall man with a chalk-white mustache, says that even in 2008 when they first expanded up to the 1,100 milking cows they milk today, it was hard to find anyone but Latinos willing to work on the farm; now, it’s been more than five years since a white person has even applied for a job there. Of the 24 employees who work on the farm, five are not Latino, including Jeff and Brad….

“The majority of the Williams brothers’ Latino employees, including Lupe, have stayed with them for 12 years or more. 

“‘How hard is it to give them some sort of legalization and work towards documentation or legal status? These guys all pay into social security and these guys will never see a dime of it,’ he says, with his often unhinged bravado. ‘At least give them a goddang driver’s license.’” 

And in other news

The United States bears a lot of responsibility for Central America’s current economic, political, and ecological crises. “Stop coming” is not a message that will neither stop desperate migrants nor help with these crises. Aviva Chomsky writes an in-depth historical overview and political analysis. (Common Dreams)

“Stopping migration from Central America is no more a legitimate policy goal than was stopping savagery, banditry, or communism in the twentieth century. In fact, what Washington policymakers called savagery (Indigenous people living autonomously on their lands), banditry (the poor trying to recover what the rich had stolen from them), and communism (land reform and support for the rights of oppressed workers and peasants) were actually potential solutions to the very poverty, violence, and corruption imposed by the US-backed ruling elites in the region. And maybe migration is likewise part of Central Americans’ struggle to solve these problems. After all, migrants working in this country send back more money in remittances to their families in Central America than the United States has ever given in foreign aid.

“What, then, would a constructive U.S. policy towards Central America look like?

“Perhaps the most fundamental baseline of foreign policy should be that classic summary of the Hippocratic Oath: do no harm.  As for doing some good, before the subject can even be discussed, there needs to be an acknowledgement that so much of what we’ve done to Central America over the past 200 years has been nothing but harm.”

The Biden administration said it will extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitians already inside the United States—but that excludes those who have already been expelled or are waiting at the border. (Time)

“The community in Tijuana has come together in part because Black migrants in Mexico, Central America and South America have experienced frequent and pervasive racism. Here, there is some safety in numbers. Two signs greet you on the road into Little Haiti: one is a banner to let you know where you are—’Little Haiti’ it reads in English, followed by ‘City of God,’ in Spanish. The second sign is written in Spanish: ‘If you don’t live here, you cannot come in.’…

“By [Haitian Bridge Association’s] estimates, the Biden Administration has in a few months expelled more Haitians back to Haiti than during the entirety Trump Administration. According to research by HBA, which analyzed deportation flights to Haiti in partnership with the Quixote Center and the UndocuBlack Network, over 1,200 people had been expelled to Haiti between Feb. 1 and March 25 of 2021….

“‘Most refugees and asylum seekers just by nature are vulnerable when they are in places that they’re unfamiliar with. But I think for Black immigrants it’s xenophobia, as well as very, very real anti-Blackness and prejudices they face’ says Haddy Gassama, policy and advocacy director at the UndocuBlack Network, a U.S.-based organization that advocates on behalf of Black immigrants. ‘It’s not just that this country [Mexico] isn’t convenient, it’s literally that people’s lives are at risk every day that they’re along the southern border.’”

A few states, including Illinois, California, and Oregon, are offering medical assistance to undocumented adult immigrants. Maria Elena’s story explains why. (AP)

“Most mornings, 62-year-old Maria Elena Estamilla wakes up with pelvic pain and dread that she faces the same fate as her mother and grandmother: fatal cervical cancer.

“The Chicago woman’s last full medical exam was in 2015 and she sees no options for care as a Mexican immigrant without permission to live in the U.S. She’s not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or Affordable Care Act coverage. As a child care worker, she didn’t have employer coverage. She can’t afford private insurance….

“Among those under 65, roughly 46% of immigrants in the country illegally don’t have insurance, compared with about 25% of immigrants with legal status. About 9% of citizens are uninsured, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis in July, which didn’t include data for those over 65. ” 

The Border Patrol got orders to let in some especially vulnerable immigrants. Now they have begun canceling appointments. (Los Angeles Times)

“For some migrants who were initially scheduled to enter the United States this week, the last-minute changes have meant scrambles to find new housing and money for food in Tijuana and have even thrust some into dangerous situations that they might have otherwise avoided.

“When asked about the cancellations, CBP officials pointed to a capacity issue at the San Ysidro Port of Entry from last weekend but declined to elaborate further.

“The program to set appointments for certain asylum seekers is the result of a temporary agreement between the federal government and the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit challenging the legality of a border policy that began under the Trump administration during the pandemic and continued under President Biden.”

Some permanent residents left the United States to care for family members during the pandemic. Now they may not be able to return. (NPR)

“For many Americans, it’s getting easier to move around the world as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. But it’s a very different picture for immigrants who are trying to get back home to the U.S. They’re navigating a range of complex legal situations as they try to return to jobs and families and homes — and finding their paths blocked by the pandemic and the major disruptions to the immigration system and global travel that it caused.” 

An eviction notice for Senda de Vida, the largest migrant shelter in Reynosa, sparked an outraged response. Now the order has been rescinded— at least temporarily. The next hearing is in two weeks. (Rio Grande Valley News)

“The notice sparked an outpouring of support from nongovernmental organizations, attorneys and engineers to address the possible displacement of hundreds of families, the legality of the decision, and possible solutions to the construction called into question….

“Senda de Vida was built 17 years ago and slowly grew through piecemeal additions. Currently, a sizable addition is underway toward the west side of the property.” 

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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