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Think Globally – Act Locally on Immigration!

By John Clark Pegg Witness for Peace – Upper Midwest Board

As we enter into the final phase of our Upper Midwest speaker tour, Nancy Garcia from Oaxaca and Moravia de la O from our WFP International Team, spent the past few days in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. They were based in Duluth, Minnesota, a small city and regional center to a population of about 200,000 souls. Duluth, which considers itself a progressive and “friendly” city, boasts several excellent institutions of higher education, an advanced care medical center which services the surrounding region, the nation’s farthest inland international harbor, and a tourism industry which plays host to the entire Midwest. It is a beautiful little city, nestled on the side of steep hills overlooking the majestic Lake Superior (which holds 10% of the world’s fresh water). Since we are only about 100 miles from the Canadian border, Duluth also is home to a large, regional U.S. Border Patrol facility capable of housing up to 50 agents. Its agent in charge issued a statement saying, “We must ensure that we are cognizant of the fact that we have good partners that will help us protect our nation both within our communities and to the north in Canada.”

In addition to speaking events at three universities, WFP-UMW also sponsored another public forum on immigration. Nancy was joined by two Latino/as from the community to join in dialogue on issues facing migrants, including both the challenges they face when heading north in Mexico as well as the barriers and opportunities they encounter here in the States. As we put together this conference, we learned something significant about Duluth. For people of brown skin (and black), Duluth is not perceived as a “friendly” or “welcoming” city. Several Latino/as who were invited to attend our forum declined to come, as they were concerned about attracting the attention of authorities here. Our U.S. panelists reaffirmed from their own experiences the difficulties and challenges of life in Minnesota for immigrants. Clearly the extravagant funds we are spending to fund a massive buildup of agents in places with minimal security needs, construct massive walls, and contract with private companies to build and manage “detention” centers, is neither an effective, nor humane, nor just means of dealing with migration. We need to address the root causes of dislocation and migration, including a renegotiation of unfair free trade agreements to level the playing field and protect the rights of workers and the environment. We also need to reform our U.S. immigration policies to reflect the realities of our need for migrant workers and provide pathways for both legal work status and citizenship for those who choose. With this in mind, an excellent, brief and to-the-point video on the need for immigration reform can be viewed here:


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