Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Outcomes and Next Steps

Reality Tour Outcomes:

A little more tangible analysis of the Reality Tour. By the numbers we had over 800 people in attendance in the ten cities we visited. We topped 100 in attendance in four of the cities we visited and elected officials were present at 9 of the 10 cities. More than 150 people expressed an interest in Voces de la Frontera and our work. More than 70 people had simultaneous translation made available to them. 34 news stories have been written or recorded on the Reality Tour to date. Approximately 30 people from Voces, Appleton and Green Bay met in Appleton for a three hour strategizing session. Educational resources were prioritized and the group is now working on developing educational tools, organizing workshops, promoting positive ordinances and developing immigration curriculum with Universities. Testimonies from 23 panelists and countless audience members we shared. We received several invitations to for future speaking engagements and requests to visit other sites.

Information about the positive ordinances in Whitewater and Milwaukee, ordinances stating that police work will remain separate from the INS and the ICE, was shared. Calls for solidarity between the Latino and African American communities were made. In some cities, particularly in LaCrosse, an opportunity for real debate and a real sharing of opinion and ideas from both sides was made. The profile of two local cases- the Whitewater Star Packaging raid and the detention of Tomas Contreras were raised and reintroduced to the media. In every city the discussion transgressed the semantics of “illegal” and “legal” and issues like NAFTA and privatized prisons were discussed.

Overall, we felt we were among supporters throughout the tour. Many people lingered after the meetings to tell us that they were touched, overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, but wanting to get involved.

What can I do?

So that brings me to the next point- what are logical next steps? What can one possibly do when faced with a problem so complex? There are lots of places to start. I offer eight starting points below, but certainly do not limit yourself to the ideas below.

First, continue to educate yourself- look for our list of helpful websites, movies and books about immigration (coming soon!).

Second, encourage more dialogue. Have another event. Invite an immigration attorney to talk about the ins and outs of legalization and immigration law. Solicit testimony from people in your area, immigrant or non, who have been affected. Have a discussion. Take some time to continue research. Continue to dialogue.

Third, oppose ordinances that are discriminatory and encourage fear mongering. Support ordinances that are respectful. Meet with local officials to talk about this.

Fourth, think nationally as well as locally. Meet with your representatives and senators to talk about immigration reform. Immigration is one of the top three concerns to candidates running in 2008. Some of the politicians we have talked to have informed us that they have received overwhelming opposition to immigration reform. Is this a representative response? I don’t think so, I think it is moreso a reflection of who is more actively speaking out. Nonetheless, this information is a signal that we must have a much louder voice. If we want a stake in the debate, we must be more proactively politically engaged.

Fifth, support pro-immigration legislation as it comes up. Comprehensive immigration reform may not come up again until 2008, but the DREAM act was recently re-introduced and will likely come up again this year. Support it.

Sixth, keep following our blog. Your commentary is welcome and encouraged.

Seventh, if in Wisconsin, support the Whitewater workers- more details about upcoming vigil soon. For more information about contributing to the legal defense fund e-mail info@vocesdelafrontera.net. If not in Wisconsin, learn about raids that have happened in your area.

Eighth, on August 14th several cities throughout the US will declare themselves sanctuary cities. Watch the news, see if your city is a sanctuary city. Think about becoming one if you are not and have a discussion in your church to think about becoming a sanctuary city. Support churches in your area that are considering sanctuary. Learn more http://www.newsanctuarymovement.org/.

There is a lot of dialogue still to be had and a lot of action yet to be taken. Find a group in your area and get involved. For more ideas, feel free to contact us http://www.vdlf.org/.

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