Local leaders consider national immigration policies’ effects on communities

As national lawmakers continue to debate immigration reform on Capitol Hill, local leaders are discussing how these policies are impacting our community.

Pat Ruda is troubled by the images of children being detained.

“Separating children from their parents is awful,” said Ruda, a promoter of justice and peace for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

She wants to take on this issue with compassion for the undocumented immigrants.

“We know that they wouldn’t leave their home of origin unless it was absolutely necessary,” Ruda said.

While we are physically far from the border, advocates worry about local residents affected by these immigration policies.

“We have immigrant communities all around here in Southwestern Wisconsin,” said Megan Strom, chair for the La Crosse Immigration Task Force.

Both Strom and Ruda are members of the task force. They recently held a public listening session in Arcadia to give residents a space to talk about the facts.

“Let’s open it up for conversation so that perhaps people who don’t know their neighbors as well as they’d like to can get to know them,” Strom said.

They hope that by hosting these events, they will help expose community members to the issues so they can understand how it impacts their neighbors.

“That way, we can feel a closeness to them, maybe feel more compassionate towards them,” Strom said.

And by doing so, they believe, they’ll make the area a better place for all people and families.

“These individuals who are coming to live in our community need to feel a part of the community,” Ruda said.

As part of their mission, the task force will hold a “People Fest,” where they will celebrate many of the different cultures in our area with various forms of entertainment. That will take place from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. July 29 in La Crosse’s Riverside Park.