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Author: Wisconsin Watch

A Long History: How Spanish speakers were part of Wisconsin’s economy since before its statehood

When Carlos Muñoz arrived in the United States in 1973, he was thinking only about vacationing. Family members who lived in Aurora, Illinois, had been trying to convince him for some time to come to the United States and stay, but he believed he had a good job in Mexico. He did not want to move. “All my family was here,” he said. “I was the only one living in Mexico, and I had a steady job at the National Bank as an accountant.” During that visit, his brother-in-law, Esteban de León, who worked as a supervisor at a...

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A struggle to be seen: Why Wisconsin’s Hmong American community continues to face discrimination

Sheng Lee Riechers remembers attending Neenah school and community events where military veterans were asked to stand and be recognized for their service to the country. Her father, a Hmong soldier who fought communist forces under the direction of the U.S. government during the Vietnam War, would always hesitate to stand, unsure of how he would be received. “I was like, ‘Dad, get up. You fought in the war,’” Riechers recalled. “It was always really awkward for him. I wish more people understood the history of why Hmong people are here and that Hmong people are truly American, if...

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Hapa Project looks past strict categories in the census to reveal Wisconsin’s racial complexity and diversity

When she attended East High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Carina Abrego-Koch’s 10th grade social studies class was asked to stick a thumbtack into their family’s country of origin. Holding the single thumbtack in hand, Abrego-Koch looked from Mexico to Japan, conflicted. Mexico was already studded with tacks. Japan stood in a world of blue without a single pin. After she placed her tack on the other side of the world, her peers had several questions, and her response was part of a repertoire she had perfected over the years. “I am half Mexican, a quarter Japanese, an eighth...

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How Afghan evacuees have enriched Wisconsin’s workforce despite barriers for immigrant labor

Ali Akbar Gholami arrived in the United States last September with little more than his work ID. He had no time to gather much else as the Taliban took over the Afghanistan capital of Kabul and escalated a humanitarian crisis, prompting the U.S. to airlift him and 76,000 Afghan nationals to safety. But Gholami — who speaks fluent English, studied civil aviation for two years and previously worked at Kabul International Airport — brought skills and a work ethic that American employers desire amid a tight labor market. That’s particularly the case in Gholami’s new home state of Wisconsin,...

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Public schools hope to resolve Milwaukee’s reckless motorist crisis with driver education programs

Monique Meese is worried about reckless driving in Milwaukee, a deadly threat that Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson has declared a public health crisis. Yet she feels hopeful for the next generation of drivers, which includes her 17-year-old daughter, Alannah. The reason? More young people now have access to affordable driver education through the Milwaukee Recreation Driver Education program. The City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force, which includes government officials and community members, has identified expanding access to driver education as a way to combat reckless driving. Such efforts are greatly needed because “Milwaukee is on a whole different...

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A chaotic resettlement: Afghan family sent to live in separate states after months together at Fort McCoy

Living 120 miles apart, an Afghan family shares hopes and anxieties while navigating the chaotic resettlement process in Wisconsin. February 6 was the day before 27-year-old Lamha Nabizada and her 22-year-old brother Masroor would fly from Minneapolis to Dulles Airport in Virginia, and then travel to Maryland — continuing a resettlement journey that began last August when the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul, accelerating a humanitarian crisis. They were among tens of thousands airlifted from the country with passports, legal documents and little else. Nearly six months later, the siblings were among the last to leave Fort...

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