Public Forum on Immigration in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Transcript
Um, uhm, The forum that we are going to be engaging in is very much about us and our interactions so I certainly think that the first order of business is for us to go around the group and let everyone do just a quick introduction...um..who you are, a little bit about what you do and why you’re here.
Now I will come back to all of you a little bit later, in a few minutes as a matter of fact, and ask you to talk more specifically about another matter, which is your personal stake in this issue. That’s not for this kinda first segment, uh right now I want you to do a kinda quick self introduction and then we’ll explore our stake in the issue a bit more as we get into the forum. Uh let’s just start over here… right?
I am John Dusek, I am from Cedar Rapids. A business person… basically, in real estate development.
I am Bred Holtman, I am a consultant at Grant Wood ATA I got involved in this through hosting this site here and had some training in past in this and am looking forward to it…
Ruth Bolster, retired. Here I’ve been at issue forums in the past, have worked for a cab agency.
I am Christina Johnson, I come from De Moines, I am a human resources coordinator for a non-profit organization in De Moines…
I am Jim Leech, I’m a board member of the Kettering Foundation.
I am Matt Scarones I live in De Moines, I were and I am with the University of Northern Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Immigraion. And I’ve been working with immigrant communities in Iowa for… close to… eight years now.
My name is Jerry Ott, I also live in De Moines, Iowa, and I retired from the Iowa State Education Association a couple of years ago and have had a good fortune of being associated with Jim and other members of partners organization for quite some time.
I am Judy MacDowell, I work for Kirkby community college in the promised jobs program, a welfare reform program, and I’ve been a member of the League of Voters and have been involved in these issues forums.
I am Colin Hennesse, I am instructional designer here in Cedar Rapids, but I live in Iowa city, and I am also earning my second master’s degree in public policy at Iowa State.
Christine Sattee, I am from De Moines and I am a self-employed freelance writer.
Mariam Andunez De Moyolo. I am an immigration attorney and I have been in practice for six years, and I represent documented and undocumented workers and corporations that wish to hire foreign workers.
I am Kathy Salazar and I am also an immigration attorney, and do similar work as Mariam has mentioned, based out of Washington, Iowa. I’ve been practicing for approximately five years.
I am DALE Taipf originally from Chicago, the south side of Chicago, served on the city council here in Cedar Rapids, and now I’m the vice president of development for a company that builds and sells large playgrounds.
Dave Wilkinson. I work for the Iowa State Education Association, title is teaching and learning specialist and part of the work is to work with the Kettering Foundation national issue forums in an informal group, but this summer I organized a group the Iowa Partners in Learning that try to ecourage public deliberation of issues.
I am Miriam Amer, I am an independent writer and media consultant and I am a commissioner with the Civil Rights Commission of Cedar Rapids.
I am Karen Bolderson. I am a Spanish teacher at an area school, I am also a member of IACA and I’ve been twice running for public office, so, I understand some of the …political views of some of this, too. So, ok.
Despite my shuffling of papers here one of the points that I need to uh reiterate, I will have a couple things in my lap because I need them to moderate the um the forum, but u m as Milton was saying its very important that we interact with each other and we look at the speaker as we’re proceeding here because the uh the essence of the forum is our interaction, not just the issue book or the frame that we’re using so if you’re kind a keeping materials on your lap it’s important that…we not necessarily be referring to those in a… during the forum; obviously those are background materials more than anything else, so just with that in mind…we’ll also I trust will get into the issue and after pretty quickly all of us will become kind of unaware of the production aspect … that’s at least that’s wha’st happened in the past…and we’ll keep this as uh conversational as possible.
All of us are here, and have been invited here I think because of various roles we play especially in our public lives, but uh the point I want to make is that we are here first and foremost in the shared role of citizen. Uh President Carter when he left office said that he was returning to the …the only title greater than the title he had held, which was the title of U.S. citizen… uh, interesting way to, to think about it.
So this is a civic deliberation and it is very much intended to be a deliberative process not a uh opportunity for individual dissertation or debate and uh I will try to moderate with that uh, with that in mind. As I say to my college students in uh writing workshop which I find very similar to this kind of activity… I tell them that writing is not intended to be either a competitive or a spectator sport it is not intended to be either a competitive or a spectator sport, the same can be very much said of this, it is not intended to be a competitive or a spectator sport. We’re here to participate and to pursue shared understanding and the um sincere engagement in the uh interaction is the uh only way we’re going to accomplish that.
We use an issue frame and the moderator has really two pieces of machinery to keep our conversation moving forward and keep it focused. The issue frame that you’ve had an opportunity to review was developed through a great deal of research and effort and work by a number of people, Jerry Ott was one of the people involved with that.
And the issue frame helps us treat the issue as something more complex than an either/or partisan matter. And so uh the frame is intended to help us explore the complexity of this issue. We will attend to the frame and we'll try to address all of the approaches and give a reasonable amount of time to each of the approaches but we’ll also try to not be tyrannized by the frame. The um the real forum is our interaction not um how thoroughly we uh we can process the uh the issue frame.
So, with those uh, with those thoughts in mind, I would like to come back to the question that I raised earlier. Obviously we are all here to consider the issue of immigration and specifically what might or might not need to be done in terms of American immigration policy.
Um, I would like to hear from as many individuals in the group as would like to chime in at this point, a little bit about your personal stake in the issue. Some of you have kind of uh implied that by by uh describing your position, uh ya know you’re your work, and our work is certainly one aspect of our relationship to an issue but usually our personal stake in an issue may go deeper than our work role or our title. It may be tied to something more specific uh than than that.
And so lets hear a bit about that from some people.
Anyone who would really like to to start to talk first about your personal stake in this issue? What makes it particularly important to you?
I’ll start. As the … coordinator here in Cedar Rapids, I did get the opportunity to see the diversity of the community. …was also extremely impressed with the number of refugees that came into our community. I was also when I was working in Chicago in a facility that had an immigration – I’m not sure raid is the right word – but an immigration raid, was also aware in the Chicago area of one business notifying immigration, when another business was having an inspection, so that…it IS a very complicated issue.
I guess my… my interest is in terms of just general public policy and this is one of those issues that it tends to be kind of a third rail, a hard one that quickly can…d… I guess… people throwing fire bombs at each other about issues, instead of talking about it… so I thought it would be interesting to come to a forum like this and hopefully get some nice balanced dialogue, ’cause I do think this is a complex issue.
Many many years ago when immigrants came into this country, and I am referring to like the time of WW2, when there were a lot of people escaping from Europe… and came to our country seeking refuge from that time the Germans and many others who were threatening their very lives, their homes…and their very lives. They had to have a sponsor here in the country, each one individually and personally had to have a sponsor, a sponsor person, a sponsor family, so that they could be sure they would receive enough start in life, a place to live, food to eat, they wouldn’t be on the streets and they would also begin to learn the language. I think that we’re missing the boat when we’re not teaching people who come here. Maybe, we don’t have enough resources right now… to teach them how to assimilate into our system and without those resources and that’s my concern. You know, slowing fast rising tidal wave down a bit, so that we can help the people who are coming over become assimilated into our system, understand more thoroughly how this system works, why it is so much better than the countries they are leaving, for the most part, and…
Is there, is there a personal, individual encounter in your experience, though, that really raises that concern for you?
Well, yes, there is and it would be our son-in-law. And he is from Ireland and he is just now getting his naturalization papers, and he said that, as a matter of fact, the rate… the… the Irish … whatever one calls it… it’s the rate, the numbers of people who can actually immigrate to the States is much much lower than many other countries. Not exactly sure why. I guess he said there are too many Irishmen in the US. We were chuckling about that… But they do already speak the English language which makes it an easier hurdle for them to overcome. He said I have no problem that I live in New York, he said, I have no problem with the Polish who seem to have displaced us as the immigrants of choice, certainly there is more Polish coming into this country, but he said they are excellent carpenters, have excellent carpenter skills, he said, whereas the Irish used to carry through with carpentry work, building, now, he said, the Irish, a lot of them, are purchasing or have purchased buildings, for example, he himself is a bar tender and he would like some time purchase a building himself and, you know, … a business himself. And he said the Polish are now at this point where there are learning the skills of the trade, doing excellent, excellent work and he has no problem with that himself. But THAT’s where I see it, we lower some numbers of some people, raise the numbers of other people, but are we keeping it on an equal basis, are we able to have the resources to make sure that we get these people assimilated into our system. (Theme 2) – truncated scenario
I feel I have a personal stake on this issue, because I am an immigrant myself, I am a new Iowan, originally from Peru, but I’ve been living in Iowa for about ten years now, and really love this state, I feel very much a part of that, and I am very concerned about Iowa’s long-term sustainability and social and economic health, and one of the most pressing problems that I see is that there is such a lack of younger workers, younger people who leave the state and am very concerned at the same time that given our aging workforce, we are gonna have huge, very concrete, very factual workforce needs, and I with my own work try to promote a welcoming atmosphere in communities, so that we are able to effectively integrate workers and have the benefit maximize as well as reducing any costs that are involved, and that’s something that really drives the work that I do, and then on a more personal level, really what I find most important is that I see that really immigrants embody those Iowa values of hard work and faith and family, and so the values that I share also why it feels so like home here and that is something that we can really nurture and we can become a really welcoming state.
Does someone have a substantially different personal stake in this issue from what you’ve heard so far?
Well, in my own family, the roots of how the folks got here goes back so far I have no idea. So, immigration in that sense is so distant. However, in my wife’s family, her grandparents, aunts, uncles immigrated here from Sweden. And so she has personal stories of when they moved into Chicago area of the men basically working as carpenters and the women working as maids, and as cooks for wealthy Chicago families. And that the struggles that they had in terms of language and getting adjusted opened up a whole new sort of sense to me from what I had experienced; so, it’s been an issue that I have interest in between looking back a couple of generations and then looking to the day what’s similar what’s different… and it’s sometimes I think I can tell the difference, and sometimes I can’t.
Jim, my younger daughter has been living and married in Merida, Mexico, and has been there now for almost ten years. So, we’ve had lots of opportunities to travel to Mexico and initially I was nervous being in a strange … and felt awkward because of the language and have gradually overcome the awkwardness of language, but what our experince’s allowed us to do is to observe first-hand the stark discrepancy between the haves and the havenots in many, many… in all parts I would guess – but the parts that we’ve been in Mexico, and easy to see why people of sparse means would economically seek to improve themselves by moving. So, I have … greater empathy for… for… people whose living conditions are such that it simply drives them out of their own homes.
I guess I would agree with that a lot; my role in the company that I have requires me to travel, let’s say, approximately 40 to 70 percent of the time to all areas of the world and I spend a lot of time working and teaching people who don’t speak English and don’t have the same kind of luxuries in terms of the educational systems that we have here in the United States, and so… seeing their perspective from that way and the way that I had then to design my materials that I’m training them and so forth with… hearing their stories of how much they would like to come to the United States and so forth. Makes it personal in a way that I wouldn’t have known, I thought it would have been.