The Peace and International Issues Committee of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee hosted the start of a luncheon lectures series on March 5 at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, presenting the first of a lineup of speakers all based around the topic of #Immigrants Matter.

The speaker series was designed to address the history and importance of immigrants in Milwaukee, the coming wave of climate migration, ongoing resettlement efforts, and the process of navigating the justice system under an anti-immigrant federal administration.

Given the policies and rhetoric coming from the highest office in the land, questions abound about the future of immigration. But if history is any guide, immigrants will continue to be essential to Milwaukee’s future.

The March 4 presentation by Barbara Minor talked about Milwaukee’s changing immigration landscape, stretching back to the founding immigrant settlements of the city. As an award-winning journalist, Miner has been a reporter, writer, and editor for more than 40 years with publications ranging from the Milwaukee Journal, the New York Times, and the LA Times.

The article by Miner, The New Land: Milwaukee’s Changing Immigration Landscape, was featured in the April 2018 edition of Milwaukee Magazine. A portion of her public talk also related to the process surrounding her research and writing of the article, which included a profile about the local Rohingya population.

Milwaukee is believed to have more Rohingya than any other city in the United States, but they’re just one immigrant group changing the face of Milwaukee. Our city prides itself on its ethnic heritage – it was the Germans, Poles, Italians and Irish who built Milwaukee into an economic powerhouse a century ago. In the 21st century, it is immigrants such as Latinos, Somalis, Eritreans, Burmese, Russians, Hmong, Indians and Saudis who are transforming the city and region.

The following three weeks of the series include Dr. Sumudu Atapattu, Director of UW Law School Research Center speaking about how climate change affects migration and refugee resettlement on March 12 (Human Rights and the Environment: Key Issues).

Mary Flynn of Lutheran Social Services speaking about the current state of refugee resettlement on March 19 (Where is the Welcome Mat for Refugees? Refugee Resettlement Efforts). And, Barbara Graham of Catholic Charities speaking about Immigration and the Justice System on March 26 (No Human Being is Illegal: Immigration & the Justice System).

All upcoming sessions begin at noon on each Tuesday in March. The First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee is located at 1342 N. Astor Street, which has a corresponding streetcar stop at Astor and Ogden Streets.

No group in Milwaukee has been more affected by Trump’s anti-immigration policies than the Latino community. And yet in recent decades no group has been more essential to stabilizing Milwaukee’s population and economy.

This audio was recorded live during the March 5 speech by Barbara Minor, and features images that highlight the event.

© Photo

Lee Matz