League of Women Voters event focuses on immigration in our area

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The Park Rapids Area League of Women Voters (LWV) will present "Bringing It Home: Immigration in Our Area" Thursday, Feb. 15.

The event will combine a dynamic guest speaker and a panel discussion to give audience members the chance to ask questions and engage in a conversation about this important topic. LWV anticipates this program to be of great interest in light of current events and the controversy surrounding immigration and immigration law.

The program begins at 6 p.m. at the Northwoods Bank community room, with refreshments available at 5:30 p.m.

The LWV is offering this free event to increase understanding and encourage area voters to be better informed on this major public policy issue.

The evening's guest speaker will be Martha Castanon of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM) in Moorhead, an office that opened in 2016. Castanon was born and raised in rural Moorhead, but began school knowing only three words of English: "Hi," "bye" and "OK." Her family worked in the sugar beet fields of Minnesota, picked cucumbers in Wisconsin and worked in the onion and spinach fields of Texas.

Castanon brings more than 35 years of experience in immigration law to ILCM. As a life-long member of the Moorhead community, Castanon has witnessed the changing demographics of Minnesota as immigrant groups arrived. During the 1970s, the Moorhead area saw the growth of the Latino community, and in the 1980s, increases in Hmong, Vietnamese, and Cambodian populations. Over the years, Bosnian, Somali, and Kurdish populations in Moorhead have also expanded as these groups were granted refugee status and resettled in Minnesota.

The LWV event is an attempt to focus on immigration and engage in civil discourse about it as a matter of urgent public policy. What is the impact of immigration in our area? What is it like to be an immigrant in Minnesota today? What is it like to be an immigrant in the Park Rapids area? Audience members will hear Castanon's riveting story of her experiences as an immigrant, and working with immigrants in our area, as well as personal stories shared by a panel of people from our area about how immigration law and policy has affected them.

LWV Minnesota supports incorporating immigrants into our communities by providing access to education, endorsing the development of secure identification documents, and respecting the right of law enforcement personnel to perform their duties without the burden of interpreting federal immigration policies.

For more information about LWV, contact Carolynne White, president, at 732-9819, visit lwvparkrapidsarea.blogspot.com, or check out their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/LeagueOfWomenVotersParkRapidsStateUnit).