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Posts Tagged ‘immigrants’

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Photos: Lowell Sun/Rick Sobey
Gardener Thomas Sarantakis harvests a watermelon at Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden in Lowell, Massachusetts. The garden was recently highlighted in a podcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Many of us are fascinated by news from distant parts of the world. At Suzanne‘s Mom’s Blog, as you know, stories of far-away events and customs get featured quite a lot.

Today in a twist, I’m highlighting something the London-based British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wrote about near-to-me Lowell, Massachusetts.

Rick Sobey at the Lowell Sun wrote a story about the story in late August.

“The community garden is blossoming in Back Central. Giant kale as tall as the 5-foot, 8-inch gardener, in addition to monster zucchini and an enormous pumpkin.

” ‘Wow, they’re, like, Jurassic,’ Alexis Pancrazi says of the kale at Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden.

“Pancrazi speaks to gardeners, immigrants and others to learn about the community gardens’ impact across the city. She recently released her findings in a 27-minute podcast segment as part of BBC World Service’s ‘Neighbourhood’ series. The title of the radio segment broadcast last week was ‘How a Garden Grows.’

” ‘We’ve been working with her for over a year on that piece, so we were really excited it finally aired,’ said Lydia Sisson, co-director of Mill City Grows. … ‘We hope this will bring more attention to the power that community gardens have.’

“The segment shines a light on Mill City Grows’ first community garden, the Rotary Club garden founded in 2012. … The segment discusses how community gardens across the country are blossoming in the place of empty lots and blight.

“In Lowell, the community gardens are helping improve urban access to fresh produce, Pancrazi says.

” ‘It’s so much more than just the food,’ says Mill City Grows Co-Director Francey Slater. ‘It’s the sense of belonging to a community. It’s the people that you meet. That sense of ownership you develop — transforming a piece of your neighborhood that had been blighted and ugly and vacant and dilapidated, into something that’s really rich and lush and welcoming. … There’s something so celebratory about that.’ …

“The series is a collaboration between the BBC World Service and the Sundance Institute. It’s available for streaming here.”

More from the Lowell Sun here.

Hat tip: Meredith on Facebook.

Flowers at the Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden in Lowell.

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Mural in Little Village, a Chicago neighborhood with a strong Latino presence. Most research shows a correlation between immigrants moving into communities and an improvement in safety for all residents.

Despite lots of reliable data that immigrants tend to improve the safety of communities where they live, misperceptions persist. Naturally, anyone who is a dangerous criminal, whether a US citizen or immigrant, must always be dealt with, but people who come here just for a decent life are as likely as anyone else — maybe more likely — to try to make communities better.

Chiraag Bains, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program, talks about the issue at the Marshall Project.

“A trove of empirical research contradicts the notion that immigrants are [a] violent criminal horde. … In fact, studies consistently show that they commit significantly less crime than native-born Americans, and although the data are difficult to untangle, this appears to be true of both authorized and unauthorized immigrants. Even more, new findings suggest that immigrants may actually cause crime to decline in the areas where they live.

“In a study published recently in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, researchers analyzed Census Bureau and Federal Bureau of Investigation crime data across 200 metropolitan areas in every census year from 1970 to 2010….

“The researchers found a reduction of almost five violent crimes per 100,000 residents for every 1 percent increase in the foreign-born population. Analyses of city- and neighborhood-level data in ‘gateway’ cities such as New York, Chicago, Miami and El Paso have similarly found that violent crime rates — homicide rates in particular — are not higher, but actually lower in areas with more immigrants. This might help explain how violent crime dropped 48 percent over the same period that our undocumented population grew from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.

“One example of this effect in action is the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. Researchers with the Americas Society and Council of the Americas found that as white residents fled the neighborhood during the 1990s, the threat of depopulation and disinvestment was countered by an influx of immigrants, mostly from the Caribbean. Today, Canarsie has below-city average rates of poverty and housing vacancy, and its crime rate dropped from just above the city average in 1990 to 44 percent below the city average in 2010.

“There are logical reasons immigrants would be less likely to commit crimes. They may represent those among their countrymen with the most motivation and the greatest ability to seek a better life abroad. They may also have the most to lose, especially if they entered illegally or have family back home counting on their income.

“There are also explanations for why immigrants help bring down violent crime — apart from the fact that they commit less of it. New immigrants often repopulate hard-hit neighborhoods and increase the labor market opportunities of native-born workers. They also tend to create and strengthen social institutions in their neighborhoods, leading in turn to communities that are more stable and safer. This is the explanation scholars find most likely.”

More here.

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Photo: Julie Van Rosendaal
EthniCity chef and kitchen manager Ajoy Sehgal helps immigrants to Canada as they acclimate to a new land and develop food and hospitality-industry skills.

I’ve written before about how immigrants often start their own businesses, especially food businesses. And I’ve also blogged on nonprofit organizations that use a food business to acclimate refugees to US job expectations and teach marketable skills. (Beautiful Day, “Granola on a Mission,” is a favorite.)

Today I have a story about the same sort of thing going on in Canada — and how great it’s been for both immigrants and customers.

Julie Van Rosendaal reports at CBC News, “Sharing a meal remains one of the best ways to get to know someone, and to learn more about different cultures and backgrounds.

EthniCity catering, a non-profit social enterprise run by Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers, taps into the culinary knowledge of new Canadians, turning their cooking skills into a business, while helping prepare them to work in the food and hospitality industry.

” ‘It’s training for us also,’ says chef and kitchen manager Ajoy Sehgal, who worked in kitchens around the world, including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dubai and throughout the Middle East, before coming to Calgary. ‘They may not be chefs, but they bring expertise about their cuisine. We hope they take something in return.’

“Founded in 1997 as a Collective Kitchen, EthniCity Catering began as a peer support group for women in a church basement and has grown into a full commercial kitchen, providing work experience and training to immigrants during their transition to Canada. …

“Each course runs for 10 weeks with a group of 16 students, who learn in the classroom as well as in the kitchen and on location at catering jobs, under the wing of Sehgal. The group generated $216,000 last year, with profits reinvested into the program. …

“The Centre for Newcomers serves over 10,000 new Canadians each year. With a staff of 130 in their northeast office and students and visitors often in the building for classes and other events, the caterers have a built-in customer base for morning coffee and pastries and unique lunch offerings. …

“EthniCity caters groups of up to 500, and offers their homemade appetizers — pakoras, fatayer, spring rolls, samosas, satay and the like — for customers to bake themselves at home.

“The menu is inspired by cuisines from around the world — the regular menu includes chickpea chaat and bahjis, Philippine pancit noodles, Thai green curry, Indian korma, Arabic mujaddara, Greek moussaka and Russian stroganoff. New dishes are regularly added, and they create custom menus. …

” ‘We’re trying to give them exposure to as much as possible,’ says Sehgal.” More here.

That list is making me hungry. And I’m remembering one of the things I loved about the years we lived near Rochester, New York — the annual international food festival held outside the museum. If I was lucky, my husband would babysit, while I walked around in a happy haze, tasting everything. Mmm.

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Photo: Ivan Pierre Aguirre/for the Washington Post
Mustafa Azimi, center, joins a discussion group hosted by Randy Harris, a friend, whose table is usually positioned near the Islamic Center’s table at a New Mexico farmers market.

Even though Thanksgiving dinners have an unfortunate reputation for fraught conversations among family members, it’s still true that sitting together and sharing food often bridges differences. That’s why going places where food is the main event — say, farmers markets — could be a great way to find commonalities with people from other cultures.

Abigail Hauslohner at the Washington Post describes one market’s experiment.

“The mother and daughter arrived just before 8 a.m., unpacking the table and folding chairs from the back of a white minivan. It was a chilly 43 degrees, and the sun cast long shadows between the farmers market stalls and the funnel cake truck, the smell of grilled meat and wood smoke hovering.

“Sureyya Hussain carefully laid out the Korans.

“Soon, the curious passersby began to approach with their questions, their comments and their concerns. The answers, Hussain hoped, would inform and enlighten — or at least spur constructive conversations about being Muslim in America.

“ ‘We wanted to have a voice about what Islam is for us,’ said Hussain, 50, who organizes the monthly table, where anyone can come to learn about Islam. …

“For some of the nation’s small-town mosques and groups of recent immigrants, the instinct has been to turn inward, keep a low profile, buy security cameras, and tell young people to avoid confrontations. Other communities have tried the exact opposite: public engagement.

“The Islamic Center of Las Cruces, the only mosque in this desert town of 101,000 about an hour north of the Mexican border, is one of them.

“Hussain and other members of the mosque’s Dawa — or outreach committee — come here, to the town’s farmers market, and set up a sign that says ‘Know Islam’ amid the stalls hawking apples, kettle corn and handmade soaps. They provide free Korans and pamphlets on different Islamic beliefs, and then they sit there for five hours, offering themselves up for whatever comes their way. …

“Sometimes the conversations get difficult — maybe even a little uncomfortable or combative — but the volunteers do their best to stay calm and friendly.

“ ‘I could very easily sit in my house and hang out, but I’ve decided to do something, and this is the consequence of doing something,’ said Mustafa Azimi, 27, a nurse, who joined Hussain and her daughter, along with his wife and another member of the mosque. ‘People are going to ask you questions. The goal is showing the community that Islam is not what the news portrays. If people knew that Muslims are also — like, that I’m a nurse who also knows how to cook food — that would be awesome.’ …

“ ‘Overall it’s been wonderful,’ said Hussain, a lawyer who grew up in Wyoming and is a mother of three. ‘People are friendly. People have a lot to say. Even people who disagree with us.’ …

” ‘We get more people that are stopping just to tell us that they either love us being here, or, like ACT for America, yell us down,’ Hussain said. ‘We get more of that because both sides feel the need to tell us how they feel.’

“As 1 p.m. approached and the farmers market began to wind down, a man in a cowboy hat, lugging a large metal washtub, walked up, looked at the sign and struck up a conversation. …

“ ‘Do you follow sharia law?’ [asked a guy calling himself Washtub Jerry.] ‘Do you want sharia law? Because it’s not compatible with the Constitution.’

“[Radwan Jallad, an electrical engineer and member of the mosque’s Dawa committee] explained: ‘Sharia law says you’re required to follow the law of the country.’

“Jerry seemed satisfied. He accepted a Koran, and said he would visit again.” More at the Washington Post, here. And check out a similar “Ask a Muslim” initiative started by one couple in Cambridge, Mass., here.

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Dressing in Austrian dirndl at Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont.

Nearly five years ago, when I was an editor, I solicited an article on Latino dairy workers from Daniel Baker at the University of Vermont. Dairy farms are practically synonymous with Vermont, where cows dot the mountainous landscape. The article summarized Dr. Baker’s research showing how essential immigrants were to the Vermont dairy industry’s survival. (Read the piece here.)

Of late, however, Vermont dairy farmers are anxious about their industry’s viability as walls both figurative and solid threaten the labor supply.

Visiting the state this week, I did note that there seemed to be a good supply of immigrants or former immigrants working in the hospitality industry at least.

I try not to ask people where they are “from” since friends in my Race in America group at the Fed have convinced me it’s a question that can make people feel unwelcome. But I was interested when someone whose way of speaking suggested Africa came to fix the hotel shower and when I noted the dirndl-garbed young lady above working the breakfast shift.

According to 2015 data from Migration Policy, Vermont has 2,619 residents born in Africa (9.3 % of the state’s foreign-born population in 2015), 8,199 born in Asia (29%), 9,113 born in Europe (32.3%), 3,038 born in Latin America (10.8%), 4, 875 born in North America, with small places like Greenland added to that mix (17.3%), and 403 born in Oceana (1.4%). By far the largest group is from Canada, which borders Vermont on the north. Vermont would be a more empty state than it is and nearly devoid of workers without all the foreign born.

If you’re interested in more, take a look at American Migration Council’s Vermont data, too. It’s here.

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Photo: Jessica Mendoza/Christian Science Monitor
Mike Fleming, owner of Farmers Feed Co., in Stockton, California, wants every customer to feel comfortable.

Well, yes, our country is polarized. But Stockton, California, not so much. Maybe there is something we can learn from the people there about what happens when you get to know the “other.”

Jessica Mendoza writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “When customers walk into Farmers Feed Co., Mike Fleming’s first priority is to make them feel at ease. He goes out of his way to befriend his clientele, ‘whether they spend a dollar or $300.’ When he sees a customer struggling to speak English, he uses his bit of Spanish to communicate with them. …

“ ‘It makes them feel more comfortable … and that’s what I like.’ ”

Fleming — an actual Trump voter and a reason not to see that constituency as monolithic — says this is pretty typical of Stockton.

“A city whose historic ties to agriculture have helped it retain a streak of classic conservatism, Stockton’s population today is 70 percent people of color and 15 percent non-citizens. Immigrants both documented and undocumented work and live with conservative landowners, growers, and businessmen – and family values, hard work, and individual merit are principles that sit side-by-side with opportunity, tolerance, and equality.

“The result is that Stockton – and the San Joaquin Valley in general – provide a snapshot of an increasingly rare reality in 2017 America: what happens when people with a broad range of histories, ethnicities, and ideologies rely on one another within the same community.

“Immigrant advocates here are less inclined to alienate those on the opposite end of the political spectrum by shutting down Republican voices. Local conservatives also tend to be more open to immigration reforms that involve pathways to citizenship for undocumented workers. …

“ ‘In communities where a lot of undocumented immigrants live and work, people are more sympathetic to them,’ notes Sarah Trumble, deputy director of social policy and politics at Third Way, a centrist think tank in Washington. …

“Michael Tubbs, Stockton’s 27-year-old mayor, … says, ‘Because we’re forced to come together, the conversations aren’t in an echo chamber.’

“Given that reality, a city official who wants to get things done has little room to pander to one side or the other with extreme positions on polarizing issues like immigration, Tubbs says. … Just because he disagrees with a group or individual or what they represent, he says, ‘that’s not going to stop me from having a conversation if I need to have a conversation.’ …

“This isn’t to say that Stockton is a political utopia where Republicans and Democrats live in harmony. In the past decade the city has dealt with … events charged with political, socioeconomic, and racial tension. But interviews with Stockton residents and community leaders do suggest that when people view one another as part of the same group – when they are able to empathize with one another because they live and work together – compromise and compassion are more likely to become viable options”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: The Guardian
One recent immigrant from Pakistan was welcomed into the home of Jo Haythornthwaite of Maryhill Integration Network in Glasgow, an example of individuals stepping up to help refugees.

The hostility to immigrants that fueled the Brexit vote in Britain gets all the attention, but there are other voices. There are always other voices.

Gregory Maniatis writes for the Open Society Foundations about refugee outreach across the British Isles.

” ‘I can’t solve the whole Syrian crisis, but I can do something, for a few people.’ The words of Olwen Thomas, from the port of Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales, probably sum up the feelings of many people around the world, as we follow news reports about the terrible difficulties that have faced refugee families fleeing the conflict in Syria, as well as other crises around the world.

“Thomas, and other members of her community, are now doing something significant through their involvement in the Fishguard Refugee Sponsorship Group. The group was one of the first to respond to a UK scheme first announced last July by the British Home Affairs Minister Amber Rudd and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — the leader of the Anglican Church.

“Under the Community Sponsorship program, local groups agree to sponsor refugee families and help them integrate into life in the UK by assisting with things such as finding housing, securing access to medical and social services, arranging English language tuition, and supporting them towards employment and self-sufficiency. …

“One Welsh group in the small town of Cardigan has raised £12,000 as part of its application to the scheme. Vicky Moller, a member of the group, told the BBC … ‘People are very, very keen to help.’

“The sponsorship model being launched in towns and cities across England and Wales is partly inspired by a hugely successful effort launched in Canada in 1979, when the mayor of Ottawa, Marion Dewar, mobilized an effort by community groups to settle 4,000 mostly Southeast Asian refugees. To date, Canadian communities and citizens have resettled almost 300,000 refugees through its private sponsorship program. …

“Chris Clements, a director of Social Finance UK, … has noted the shortcomings of ‘traditional’ refugee resettlement in the UK, which has left many refugee families isolated and struggling to adapt to their new surroundings. This in turn results in high rates of unemployment, depression, stress, and other problems.

“Community sponsorship, Clements says, ‘enables local people to take responsibility for resettling a refugee family, supporting and empowering them to rebuild their lives.’ ”

More here.

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