By SANDRA McANANY | Coon Rapids, Minn.
Politics can be a hard issue to discuss, and there are so many viewpoints, but the decisions the presidents and their teams make can have immediate, horrifying consequences. Today, many immigrant families are being separated at the border due to the direction to prosecute parents for illegal entry. The parents are entering the federal justice system while their children are separated and sent to different facilities. This is even happening to families that follow the procedures to request asylum.
If you have kids or grandkids, take a moment and just imagine the trauma these children and families are experiencing and the fear. It’s hard to know at this point how many of these families may never be reunited or how many parents may end up being deported without their children. Trauma for children can have lifelong mental and physical health consequences.
Now please take a moment and look around the local communities. Immigration has had so many positive impacts on the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton area.
According to the Datausa website, which pulls in census data, Norwalk has 632 residents and more than 40 percent are Hispanic. Many of the Hispanic families are now homeowners and have been in the community for years. Every time I drive through Norwalk, I am amazed at the time, effort and care one Mexican family has put into the home that was owned by my grandmother. Ontario has 475 residents and almost 25 percent are Hispanic. For Wilton, there are 462 residents with a 10 percent Hispanic population. Without immigrants and the families that have stayed here over time, the three towns might have been smaller with a smaller tax base and fewer resources for the communities.
Immigrants not only have made a difference in the three villages, but also have made a difference for the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction 2016–2017 District Report Card, 18.8 percent of the students in the district are Hispanic/Latino. Without immigration, there may have been only two sections of each grade, larger class sizes, and the kids would have missed learning together across cultures.
There have been so many immigrant family success stories over the last 20-plus years. Kevin, a young man from Norwalk who graduated from Brookwood, is now a La Crosse police officer. His sister owns a business with her husband. His younger brother will be a senior next year at Brookwood. Their parents are citizens and now have deep roots in the area. Denis lived in Norwalk as a preschooler, and after moving from the area with his family, he graduated from high school and served his country for four years in the Marines. His mom is still an amazing cook and works for a hospital system in Rochester. Ricky and Sandra, who lived in Norwalk until around fifth grade, went on to great careers, and their parents now own a business in Minnesota. Another young man, Ariann, became a welder after high school and is now a homeowner. These success stories are just the tip of the iceberg for how immigrants in the area have become homeowners, business owners and tradesmen and contribute so much to our economy.
President Trump and the policy of separating families at the border to prosecute the parents and decreasing immigration overall will change our future. Imagine the area without immigrants, with smaller communities, a school district with 100-plus fewer students, and not having the chance to experience other cultures. That is our future without immigration.
To make a difference for future immigrants and their families and to help change the policies leading to family separation, please consider calling Sen. Baldwin’s office at (202) 224-5653, Sen. Johnson’s office at (202) 224-5323 and Congressman Kind’s office at (202) 225-5506.