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First Lutheran hosting immigration forum Sunday

Eastman

WORTHINGTON — Immigration policy, the U.S.-Mexico border, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and other immigration-related topics will all be discussed during this Sunday’s immigration forum at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.

Beginning at 10:30 a.m., speaker, communications scholar and author Dr. Cari Lee Skogberg Eastman will share what she’s discovered during more than 10 years of empirical research of the U.S.-Mexico border and the immigration debate.

“All are welcome and the real emphasis is coming together to learn to be open-minded about seeing each other as a common humanity and moving forward to honor all people affected by the issue of immigration,” Eastman said.

The Sioux Falls, S.D. woman will focus on discerning fact from fiction and providing advice to individuals about sources of information and the information they receive.

“We are in an era where there’s so much information coming so quickly and in so many directions, it’s often hard to sort out the fact from the fiction,” she said.

Eastman will also address misunderstandings and misrepresentations of immigrant-related topics, including the nature of the undocumented population, assimilation, push-pull factors (including American employers and “taking American jobs”) and how laws and policies affect people on both sides of the border.

“Forty-percent of that (undocumented) population came here on legal visas and overstayed their legal visa,” Eastman said. “We need to take into account that we need the workers and employers in the United States, but really in the end, everyone benefits if we come up with a system that honors both — the need for workers, but coming up with a legal way for those workers to come so they’re not having to be paid under the table or trying to do this in an illegal fashion.”  

Eastman’s interest in the U.S.-Mexico border and immigration issues was triggered in 2004 when she began working toward earning her Ph.D.

From a media literacy and communication angle, Eastman focused on images and communication being disseminated at that time. She was curious what effect they had on shaping the public’s perception of immigration.  

“When the economy is running smoothly and things are good overall in the American economy, we don’t hear so much about immigration,” Eastman said. “When things tend to be a little more unsteady for American workers or problems arise, immigrants are often a target of the ire of those that are looking for better jobs or feeling that something is wrong with the system.”

Language like “floods” and “tidal waves” were used frequently in the early 2000s, and a post-9/11 fear took a lack-of-national-security narrative.  

Eastman was also interested in how immigration communications were being disseminated to Americans in the midwest, west and east regions far from the border.  

“Many of them have never been to the border,” she said. “How is their perception and understanding of the border influenced by the stories that come directly from those areas?”

The Rev. Jeanette McCormick, pastor at First Lutheran Church, said the church decided to host Sunday’s immigration forum to learn how to continue to reach out to, and better serve, the community.

“We have several people — and myself included — who feel understanding immigrants and the immigration reality of Worthington is a huge piece of that, so we hope that will be a useful tool toward making that happen,” she said.

McCormick called Eastman a wealth of knowledge with a fair approach to discussing the often sensitive and difficult topic.

“She doesn’t demonize either side and tells a lot of helpful truths,” McCormick said. “She helps people see the blinders of their own positions but also respect other’s positions, and that’s where we need to start from if we’re going to come up with any solutions.”

McCormick said the congregation is excited to have Eastman speak and hopes that the public feels comfortable to join — whether for the entire two- to three-hour presentation, or to come and go as necessary.

“We really want people from a variety of opinions to come,” she said. “If we can’t sit down and talk to one another, we’ll probably stay stuck in the same broken conversations that we’re in now.”

The event won’t take a strictly Christian angle, but Eastman said she will address what the gospel could be telling Christians to do in response to the issue.

“I want to provide a safe, comfortable environment we can act as a civil society and speak together about this topic and really do away with the labels that have been placed,” Eastman said. “It’ll be an environment where people can come together and learn and better understand these issues without feeling like they’re under attack because they’re asking questions.”

A free-will offering lunch will be served following the presentation. Free-will childcare will also be provided by the youth group.  

For more information, contact McCormick at (612) 636-1533 or email felcpastor@frontier.com.

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