Several local organizations banded together Thursday to share information about one of the most polarizing issues in today’s political climate: immigration.
Speakers addressed stereotypes, myths and the challenges immigrants face in the U.S. at “Immigration 101: Facts, Myths and the Human Story.” More than 50 people attended the event, which was held at the Kenosha Public Museum.
Several members of the Racine Interfaith Coalition were on hand to throw cold water on some of the inflammatory commentary they said permeates today’s immigrant community — particularly with undocumented people.
The status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program also was a focal point throughout the event, which has become more widely discussed since President Donald Trump took office.
Sue Spicer, a member of the Racine Interfaith Coalition, has made immigrants’ rights an important part of her role within the organization.
Undocumented citizens, in particular, are some of the most misunderstood people in American society, she said, and few commit any types of crimes simply because of fear of retribution.
“Many are hiding in the shadows,” said Linda Boyle, an Interfaith member who has advocated for immigrants’ rights. “They’re fearful of being criminalized.”
Throughout their hour-long talk, Spicer and Boyle took on a range of issues that have been a growing part of the national conversation since the most recent presidential election.
Spicer rattled off a list of seven myths about the immigrant community and attempted to pick apart each one. She especially took aim at the notion Wisconsin, in particular, is being “overrun” by people hailing from outside the U.S.
“That’s just not the case,” she said, offering up a p graph that stated 95 percent of the state’s population is native born, with the remainder consisting of 3.5 percent immigrant citizens and 1.5 percent undocumented people.
Other prejudices Spicer attempted to tackle in her talk included the notion immigrants increase the crime rate, are a drain on government aid and are disinterested in learning English.
“English is very difficult to learn,” Spicer said. She noted 91 percent of second-generation immigrants are fluent in the language, and 97 percent of third-generation people have mastery.
Boyle said the DACA program is not a free ride for immigrants brought illegally as children to the U.S. DACA recipients historically have had to adhere to stringent requirements, including criminal background checks, and were required to reapply to the program every two years, all the while paying a fee for reinstatement.
“DACA recipients bring value to this country,” Boyle said, pointing out more than 40 percent of youth in the program are among those who work in Wisconsin as dairy farm laborers, 16 percent work in agriculture and 4 percent are part of the manufacturing labor force.
“It’s very difficult to get native labor to do much of this work,” she added.
Other organizations that had a part in Thursday’s presentation included nonpartisan interfaith nonprofit organization CUSH, the local LULAC Council and Forward Kenosha.