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Community forum on immigration hosted at Minnesota West

Jessica, one of the children who made the trip to Guatemala to meet their extended family, addresses the immigration forum Saturday morning at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus. She is flanked by her mother, Catalina (left) and Famillias Juntas coordinator Lisa Kremer. (BETH RICKERS/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON — Following Friday night’s premiere of the Luis Argueta documentary “Abrazos,” about 35 people gathered to follow up on the film’s message at a public forum on immigration Saturday morning at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus.

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Bishop John Quinn of the Diocese of Winona said he came away from Friday night’s with a feeling of “hopefulness, of how these children were able to come to know their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins — who they belong to.

“I always say the best part of discussing is the stories,” he continued. “You really see what it is to be an American when you listen to the stories of immigrants.”

While people were initially slow to share their thoughts Saturday morning, it turned into a true roundtable discussion once people gathered into a circle and passed a microphone around.

Hugo Hun, consul general of the Guatemalan Consulate in Chicago, said the initial impact of the film, for him, was a feeling of guilt that he was able to have his family close to him when so many others don’t.

Hun also addressed the issue of unaccompanied minors coming to the United States and what is being done in Guatemala to curb the tide of immigration, including beefing up law enforcement to deal with the drug cartels. The Guatemalan government is also establishing 13 new consulate locations in the U.S., he reported, including three along the U.S.-Mexico border and several in closer proximity to Worthington.

The Rev. Jim Callahan, priest at St. Mary’s parish in Worthington, expressed disappointment that no local officials or representatives were on hand for either the film premiere or Saturday morning’s discussion. 

“Last night, after seeing the film, I couldn’t get to sleep,” he related. “So I was thinking about the movie, reliving some of the moments we saw in the film. One of the things I was thinking about was this weekend we celebrate (the Feast of) Corpus Christi, so as I was praying last night, I kept thinking about what Jesus said: ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ … I realized that our immigrant families, the men and women in our community, were imitating what Jesus did — sacrificing themselves. … They were willing to be totally broken in order to give their children a better life, a better future.

“I think we forget, that if they had a choice, they would stay in Guatemala,” added Callahan. “They don’t want to leave their community, their foundation, their families. But they do it to make their life better.”

One of the children who made the trip to Guatemala to visit her grandparents, Jessica, took the microphone and shared how scared she and her siblings were when their father was stopped for a driving violation and jailed because he didn’t have a driver’s license. He has now been released, but has to check in regularly with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Her mother, Catalina, also spoke of her apprehension about sending her two daughters to Guatemala.

“For me, this trip was not only happiness — it was moments of anguish and moments of happiness at the same time,” she said through an interpreter. “... It is my country, but they do not know it. I was so scared, but at the same time it was my only chance for them to know my parents.

“The message (of the film) for me, it is very important, not because my children or I are part of the movie. My desire is the people who have the power, the stories reach their hearts, and they can support immigration reform.”

For more information about local family unification efforts, go to

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers may be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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