Immediately after the first Executive Order on Immigration was signed in January, I received several emails from individuals wanted to get involved with the interfaith work that my husband and I do with Muslim Neighbors. As I thought about how to respond, I knew that we needed a more sustainable way of addressing issues facing our community. Then (and still) it was Islamophobia and nationalist policies affecting millions of immigrants (documented and undocumented) and refugees in very tangible ways. But it could have been anything, any issue. Also, realizing that our time in Lafayette is more than likely finite, how can the network we are building continue after we are gone?
So we called together as many faith leaders in the community as we knew to form the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette. Twenty seven people showed up with only 2 days notice and from there we have started interfaith discussion groups, planned educational meetings focused on immigration, and are moving forward as a coalition of faith leaders. I am hopeful. Let me know if you are interested in getting involved.
Interfaith Leaders Greater Lafayette (ILGL) is a coalition of leaders of religious institutions and organizations in greater Lafayette dedicated to dialogue, service, hope, and a shared vision for our local community. We are united to create and support a community of respect, dignity, and responsibility for all. Through our work together, we hope to create an atmosphere of hospitality, belonging, compassion, and safety, where the city can stand firmly together in our diverse beliefs.
ILGL’s vision is to foster and sustain the multi-faith fabric of the greater Lafayette community through:
The group meets regularly as faith leaders to learn about issues facing the greater Lafayette community, engage in critical dialogue about these issues, and invite common responses to them. Our goal is to disseminate resources, promote events, and connect individuals in our faith communities to initiatives furthering our vision for the greater Lafayette community and promote increased understanding of various faiths and how our faith informs our values.
For the past several months, we have been focusing on the issue of immigration. Dr. David Atkinson, history professor at Purdue, shared with us the historical context for immigration restrictions in the United States, noting that restrictions based on national origin and religion are nothing new. Susan Brouillette, director of the Immigration Clinic at LUM, presented an Immigration 101 and told us about the services LUM provides to our local community. Finally, Dr. James McCann, professor of political science at Purdue, presented on the civic life of Latino immigrants.
Dr. McCann’s presentation shared that 43-44 million U.S. residents are foreign-born, and significant increase since the 1960s. This change, however, has more to do with the demand for migrant labor in the construction, agricultural, and medical industries since the 1980s than the changes in federal legislation related to immigration in the 1960s. Today, 1 out of 8 U.S. residents are foreign-born, which is comparable to the ratio in the early 19th century. The process of integration is, as Dr. McCann put it, “clunky” but is part of our historical process as a nation.
Through his research with Latino immigrants (citizens, documented, and undocumented), he found that immigrants may be more American than U.S.-born residents. This is based on feelings about the flag, the U.S. government, and voting. Overwhelmingly, Latinos living in the U.S. have a positive view of the U.S. government and feel that voting is a duty, not a choice unlike data on U.S. born residents, which have a relatively negative view of the government and feel that voting is a choice rather than a duty. Second, the immigration rights movement has persisted since the 2006 demonstrations against legislation passed by the U.S. House that would make it a felony to be in the United States illegally. While this movement has morphed, data shows that there is still a strong network that can be activated. Finally, he found that among Latinos, major political disappointment does not equal civic withdrawal. Most those surveyed do not desire to return to their country of origin, even if they view the country moving in the wrong direction, indicating that their sense of belonging and partisan identification has not been shaken, even post-2016 election. Dr. McCann is currently conducting further research on the resilience of this population as the Trump Administration is more established. Check out some of his articles here.
Moving forward, ILGL suggests several opportunities to engage in this issue locally.
Welcoming Greater Lafayette. First, Susan Brouillette proposed becoming a Welcoming city, which entails joining Welcoming America and works across multiple sectors, such as government, business, and non-profit, to create inclusive policies and practices to create a welcoming community climate that supports long-term integration. Welcoming Cities are guided by the principles of inclusion and creating communities that prosper because everyone feels welcome, including immigrants and refugees. For more information, visit www.welcomingamerica.org. Contact Susan Brouillette (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get involved. Organizations can join the movement. Help plan Welcome Week activities (September 15-24). Join the Welcoming Greater Lafayette committee. Promote and attend events.
Greater Lafayette Immigrant Allies (GLIA) is a local group focused on advocacy, education, and fellowship about issues concerning immigrants and refugees in greater Lafayette. Find out more information about how to get involved in these action groups at www.standingforgood.com or by contacting Kirsten Serrano (email@example.com). They are attending a May Day Strike and Rally in Indianapolis on May 1. Find out more and reserve a seat here. Make a donation to support riders here.
LUM Immigration Clinic. Contact Susan Brouillette (firstname.lastname@example.org) to volunteer at the LUM Immigration Clinic, host a “Know Your Rights” session, or to help advertise their services.
Muslim Neighbors. Host a Muslim Neighbors panel or display the photonarrative exhibit. More information at www.muslimneighbors.com. Contact me to schedule an event. Muslim Neighbors is hosting a Live Art Booth at TASTE of Tippecanoe on June 17, 201`7 to collect stories of welcome and unwelcome from residents of greater Lafayette. Come by the booth. Invite people to share their stories, especially individuals marginalized on the basis of race, citizenship status, and religion. Then, join us for a community iftar (breaking fast meal during Ramadan) and interfaith panel on fasting. More information to come.
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.