Integration of Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Mexico: A Project for Mexico
From November 5th to 9th, we hosted a delegation from Mexico for a program titled “Integration of Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Mexico.” This program aimed to deepen understanding of the role policies, programs, and institutions play in integrating immigrants and refugees into American society, as well as learn best practices in addressing issues that may arise in this process.
Unfortunately, due to flight delays, the delegation arrived at Iowa City very late on Saturday evening and subsequently cancelled their morning visit to the Amana Heritage Society. They instead took the day for some much-needed rest and recreation before their meetings the next day. In the afternoon, some of the visitors went to the University of Iowa Old Capitol Museum for their Piano Sundays event, which exhibits student piano performances on the historic piano in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber.
“It's amazing the number of historical places that Iowa City offers,” commented participant Jose Miguel Dominguez Camacho.
After a COVID test the next morning, the delegation met volunteer and Board member Dr. Peter Gerlach, who escorted them to their meeting at the Iowa City Public Library. There, they met with a panel of various immigration resources around the Iowa City area. This large panel featured Professor Bram Elias of the University of Iowa Law Clinic, Operations Manager Loren Bawn of the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services, Co-Legal Directors Ann Naffier and Jody Mashek of the Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Professors Suzan Pritchett and Allison McCarthy of the Drake Refugee Clinic, Assistant Director Amy Weismann of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, Director Yer Vang and Staff Attorney Dee Patters of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, and Executive Director Rev. Teresa Stecker of IC Compassion.
Afterwards, volunteer Marianne Weiss accompanied the delegation to their next meeting at the Coralville Public Library. There, they met with Omar Martinez, a City Council member of the City Council of West Liberty, Iowa. West Liberty was the first town in Iowa to be considered “minority-majority,” meaning that less than 50 percent of the population self-identifies as “non-Hispanic white”. Of note, 40 percent of the total population identifies as Latino. This meeting discussed matters related to tolerance and diversity, as well as how they continue to work toward these goals within their community.
Following this meeting, the delegation went to the Global Ties Iowa 2022 Annual Meeting that was being hosted in the same building. There, they talked to eastern Iowa locals who are passionate about citizen diplomacy alongside a potluck. During this event, participant Mr. Alvaro Alejandro Garcia Parga spoke on behalf of the Mexican delegation to discuss their program so far. Notably, he commented that unlike Washington D.C and Orlando, Florida, the delegation had no idea what to expect from Iowa City. However, witnessing all the smiles and people saying hello quickly told them that they were in a welcoming community!
“The potluck was incredible, I enjoyed sharing and meeting everyone, especially the Vietnam visitors and volunteers,” wrote participant Ivanna Paola Herran Ballesteros.
Read more about the Annual Meeting.
The next morning, the delegation met with Geoff Fruin who has served as Iowa City’s City Manager. In this meeting they discussed how to make Iowa City a more tolerant and inclusive community through various programs and initiatives.
After free time to have lunch and explore Iowa City, the delegation met volunteer Jeanne Stoakes who accompanied them on their bus ride to their meeting with the Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) of Eastern Iowa. There, they met Horacio Borgen, a Global Ties Iowa volunteer and former IVLP alum, who also volunteers at CWJ. Mazahir Salih, Kaille Simmons, Bijou Maliabo, Cindy Onnen, and Horacio Borgen discussed CWJ’s activities and impact on the community. CWJ seeks to improve eastern Iowa communities by coordinating projects to address injustices in workplace conditions, civil rights, access to education, and the need for affordable housing, and their membership is comprised mostly of recent immigrants of Latin American and African origin.
The delegation had the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore before departing Iowa City the next morning.
“The experience was so enriching, from the day we arrived we were received in a warm manner, the driver arrived on time, the program was very fulfilling, and everything was very educational. Everything was very positive,” wrote participant Ivanna Paola Herran Ballesteros.
We would like to thank the University of Iowa Law Clinic, the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services, the Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, the Drake Refugee Clinic, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, IC Compassion, Omar Martinez, Geoff Fruin, the Center of Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa for serving as professional resources in this program.
Additionally, thank you to our volunteers Dr. Peter Gerlach, Marianne Weiss, Jeanne Stoakes, and Horacio Borgen for making these visitors’ time in eastern Iowa special!
“The attitude of the volunteers was always the best and they always tried to integrate and support us,” commented visitor German Gutierrez Gomez.
“It's a warm city with nice people. There's peace, tranquility, and it's an enthusiastic and positive place,” wrote participant Laura Olivia Robledo Vega.
“I felt very welcome, and the city seemed warm to live in,” seconded participant Anabel Cristina Olivas Gallardo.