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Thursday, 27 February 2020 23:21

Fox Cities Immigration Task Force

Written by Nancy Bourassa
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Nancy Bourassa – Fox Cities Chapter, Task Force Chair

ESTHER is a faith-based organization working for social justice.  Four members of its Immigration Task Force are Fox Valley Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter members. Kathleen Gribble, chapter coordinator, has offered her home for asylum seekers waiting for their court date.

The ESTHER Immigration Task Force has evolved over the years into a wide-reaching group with ties to many groups in the community and beyond.  Currently, we are working on auto insurance for undocumented immigrants, we are educating the community through entertainment, we gather and share information about conditions on the border, and we advocate for local immigrants in abusive situations.

Safe Roads is an initiative aimed at culminating in a bill that will allow our undocumented immigrants to be tested to drive legally and carry insurance. A few members of our task force are working on the bill with other groups around the state. It would be a win/win for the state but is still meeting with opposition.

The task force’s educational arm continues with Voices of Hope, a 45-minute Readers Theater that tells the stories of local immigrants: their journey here and struggles in the community.  Music, stories, and commentaries throughout the performance make it an enlightening presentation.  Immigration Simulation, a hands-on, two-and-a-half-hour, interactive process lets participants live out four days in the life of immigrants in our area.

We have spoken with several people who have been to the border to help those crossing the border into this country.  We have sponsored a presentation by one group; we heard some horrific stories of conditions from someone who worked in the detention centers; and we saw an illuminating PowerPoint presentation about a very recent trip.  Some of us have conferred with people working on the border to improve the lives of those suffering these unbelievable conditions.

We sometimes get involved with individual cases.  Melissa, a task force member and immigrant herself, took the USCIS course (www.uscis.gov/citizenship/educators/training-seminars) to help our undocumented with their paperwork.  Working out of Casa ESTHER in Omro as a Legal Immigration Advocate, she will be helping those trying to apply for a legal status in the US, a very daunting task.  Another ESTHER member was contacted by a young man working on a large farm about an hour from here.  After personal meetings and hearing his story of abuse, firing, and removal from his residence, ESTHER people are working to get him a U Visa, which gives those who have been abused legal residency.  The young man who did not know where to turn is now on his way to a permanent status.

We meet monthly at a local church and invite interested citizens to join us in our efforts for a better life for our immigrant families. This year we are working on the census and voter registration.

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