This week the topic was titled Latinas and Grassroots Organizing in Central Minnesota and the three panelists were Sara Salas Ramirez, an SCSU undergraduate in criminal justice, earning her graduate degree, Monica M. Segura-Schwartz, SCSU graduate with a Master’s in social responsibility, and Ana Maria Studer, with Anna Marie’s Alliance, spoke to students and faculty in attendance about their work within their respective communities.
The theme of Women on Wednesday this spring is “The Future of Gender Justice: Be the difference” covering issues many members of the student body face. The sessions vary from Q and A sessions, plays, short films, and informative talks, from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Atwood Theatre.
The first topic of conversation was a brief summary of U.S. immigration, or “immigration 101” as Suder said jokingly.
Segura-Schwartz summarized it in three points.
“U.S. immigration is very complex, very confusing and very primitive,” and that it is in fact, very hard to get to the U.S. as an immigrant, she said.
Many immigrants looking to come to the U.S. face violence in their countries, trying to escape the militant violence and that “most illegals aren’t going to wait two years for a VISA, if they can they will get out now.”
Segura-Schwartz also discussed the differences between a VISA, employment based on immigration, and permanent residency.
There are very difficult policies that applicants must follow, citing that due to certain countries having treaties with the U.S. the policies are more difficult to follow. For example, applicants must have “proof of good moral character” absolutely no criminal record, and applicants must prove their purpose for entering the country.
The panelists discussed current legislation associated with immigration reform, focusing heavily on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM), and that many immigrants applying to come the U.S. are “guilty until they are proven innocent.”
They are assumed to be problems until the applicants can prove otherwise. The panel discussed higher education and what an education means to immigrants, the power of social media in political causes, where immigrants within the Latina/Latino community in Minnesota are more prominent, and finally what was next for the cause.
All three encouraged the audience to make their own opinions, not listen to just one.
“Live together,” Studer said. “Let’s see how we can make this better.”
In the audience Q and A session, Brandon L. Johnson, director of the LGBT Resource center on campus, asked Studer for her advice on catering to the Latina/Latino community.
Suder addressed the audience earlier that her biggest struggle is working with people who do not provide material in Spanish. An example she used was that women learning to get their driver’s license have study aides in Spanish, but the test computers are in English.
Studer’s answer was that the best way to help is to have Spanish materials, start to understand the culture, and don’t think about just the language barrier, there’s a cultural barrier that needs to be understood as well.
Wrapping up the session, the panelists encouraged students to get involved by volunteering.
“Be more aware of each other,” Segura-Schwartz said.