Members of the Goshen community will have a new way to learn about important community issues, according to Darin Short.
Short, who acts as consultant to the Community Relations Commission, announced the future of discussions for Goshen in the form of a deliberative poll or community jury, the form still being decided, he said.
No matter which form selected, the group would be composed of Goshen residents who devote time to looking at issues that concern Goshen as a whole, Short said. The group would hear from experts and decide what information to analyze before coming to decisions about recommendations to make to governing bodies, such as the Goshen city government, or even state and federal legislatures.
“We are still trying to determine what it will look like in Goshen,” Short said of the process that has been used in other states and internationally.
Short announced all of this at the roundtable discussion on illegal immigration, hosted at the Goshen High School Media Center Monday night. The gathered residents heard from Goshen College professor Steve Nolt, who gave a historical update on several events that have happened in relation to immigration since the community forum in June 2011, along with Bob Schrameyer and Saulo Padilla.
Schrameyer and Padilla come from different perspectives; Schrameyer is one of the founders of Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement, while Padilla is the immigration education coordinator for the Mennonite Central Committee and a green card-carrying immigrant himself. Both spoke about their perspectives on the update given by Nolt.
Schrameyer identified the biggest problem with immigration today for him as the lack of federal enforcement of laws.
“Our problem that we’re fighting is the federal government has been lax on enforcing laws that are already on the books,” he said. “We have enough laws on the books — we just need ways to enforce them.”
Schrameyer said that another large problem is that employers do nothing to stem the illegal labor coming across America’s borders because it is cheap. If employers were forced to hold to U.S. laws, things may be different.
“(CILE) is not against immigration,” Schrameyer said. “We’re against illegal immigration.”
Padilla said that he knows immigration well because he has lived it, moving first from Guatemala to Canada, and then from Canada to the Goshen area. He has citizenship in both Guatemala and Canada, and, as of a week ago, carries a green card in the United States.
“If you’re wondering what an immigrant looks like, here’s one,” he said, gesturing to himself.
Padilla said one of the biggest problems is that the American immigration system is hard to navigate, and that those against certain pieces of legislation, such as the DREAM Act that would give immigrant children access to education, are misunderstood.
“Dreamers (those who would use the DREAM Act) are exactly who we’re looking for,” Padilla told the crowd. “They’re educated, speak English and want to succeed.”
Once the root causes of immigration are addressed, the problems produced by immigration will lessen, he said. Those root causes are found when people stop and listen to the stories of others.
“Telling stories is important,” he said, talking about how immigrants pass their stories on to their children. “I’m from Guatemala, Canada and here, and that influences how I treat people and see people.”
The roundtable conversations went on for about an hour, and they were governed by several rules laid out by emcee Joe Leichty. Chief among them was giving others civility and mutual respect.
Mayor Allan Kauffman, who attended the event, said that discussion is important in Goshen, especially on such tough issues.
“I’m hoping there are differing views here tonight,” he said, looking at the tables of people in attendance. “It’s great to see different faces... If people can talk with each other and understand, that can go a long way.”
Short said community conversation and deliberation would be an important part of proposed deliberate polling or community jury. The possibilities are still open; Short said he doesn’t even know how many people would be involved, but it’s anywhere from 10 or 12 in a jury to even more in a deliberate poll of a group of Goshen residents.
“I hope people see the quality of the process,” he said. “It’s been done internationally and in other states to great success. It’s a way to enrich conversation and help people get past what keeps them stuck.”
The deliberate polling and community jury will be a topic at the next CRC meeting, according to Short. The meetings are held the second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Goshen City Hall. According to the schedule, the next meeting is Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.