On Monday, the Montgomery County League of Women Voters gave a presentation on immigration, led by Margaret Hass, president of the Greater Lafayette Immigrant Allies. Greater Lafayette Immigrant Allies is an immigrant-support group whose focus is, “fellowship with, advocacy for and support of immigrants in our community and nation,” according to their Facebook page.
The meeting, held at St. John’s Episcopal Church was an effort to inform local citizens about immigration issues across the country and how those issues impact places like Crawfordsville and Montgomery County, as well as helping show people how they can help inform and educate others in the community on issues relating to immigration.
Hass says the issue of immigration can seem distant, as the Midwest is far removed from the southern U.S.-Mexico border, but said that doesn’t matter.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that, even though it’s a national issue, immigration affects small communities, rural communities like Crawfordsville,” she said.
Hass also pointed to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid that occurred in May in Crawfordsville and resulted in the arrests of seven people as evidence of that. “People in Crawfordsville have experience immigration issues before, with the workplace raid at Little Mexico and so now people here are even more aware of the fact that this is an issue.”
Hass said everything is cut and dry, and that there isn’t one quick fix or easy solution, but rather, the key is keeping your mind open. “Immigration is a very complex issue and there is always something to learn . . . and when we speak about these things, we should inform ourselves, educate ourselves on these issues.”
Hass noted at the end of the interview how well she thought the crowd at the lunch responded to her presentation, saying, “I thought people were very attentive and perceptive, there were a lot of interesting questions and points brought up. And I think people left there better informed and with some information they didn’t have before today.”
Mayor Todd Barton, who has previously been vocal about issues dealing with immigration in the aftermath of the ICE-Little Mexico raid, spoke about why Crawfordsville is an important venue for a presentation like this.
“The immigration issue is complex and it’s not as black and white as both sides make it out to be. Our community has experienced this with the ICE action at Little Mexico,” he said. “The reality is the law is the law and if you don’t like it, work to change it. I’ve always thought, when you take the oath office as an elected official, you’re giving the oath to enforce all the laws, not just enforce the ones you like and ignore the ones you don’t,” Barton said. “It’s tough though because there are people who came here illegally and are undocumented but they’re trying to do the right thing, work hard and create a life for themselves, but because of the law, they came here illegally and they’re trapped.”
In the end, Barton echoed another similar sentiment to Hass, talking about the need for maintaining an open mind. “With immigration, you really have to step back and think it through.”