The New American Dream
Monett is a small idyllic town of 9,000 residents nestled in the rolling plains of Southwest Missouri. It’s also grown into a hub for big business—attracting international industries like Tyson and Pella —and unskilled immigrant workers from Mexico and Guatemala. Monett illustrates a national trend as Hispanics become more visible in small towns with no international borders.
The Best and Brightest
WeiJen Chua is at the cutting edge of her field, working towards a cure for HIV. However, she is struggling to get a worker’s visa upon her graduation. America has a longstanding tradition of being a beacon to immigrants, yet the complexity of the visa process is a complicated and unwelcoming burden. Additionally, polarizing political agendas fuel angry rhetoric, mobilizing many constituents against any form of immigration. Do we want to keep these highly skilled immigrants that have been trained in U.S. academic institutions, at the risk of eschewing American workers?
Illegal in America
Frank Cortez is 26 and facing deportation. He came to America when he was a child, and has lived here ever since. He has built his life in the United States. He has a steady job, owns a home, and doesn’t remember Mexico. Many of his family members are here legally. He is part of one of 8.8 million mixed status families in America. Situations like Frank’s have motivated recent debate around the DREAM Act, and will be affected by President Obama’s new immigration policy.
It’s somewhat surprising that Kris Kobach, the man who molded the controversial Arizona immigration bill, is based so far from the border. Kris Kobach is a Kansas-based attorney who travels the country to help craft legislation that he believes will restrict the flow of illegal immigrants to our land—a flow that he argues needlessly burdens our system and defies the rule of law.
Fruit of their Labor
The Happy Apples orchard in Washington, Missouri needs a stable workforce to pick and process their caramel apples, but this small, family-owned business has trouble finding and retaining dependable workers. As owners Ed and Joette Reidy kick off another apple season, we see just how dependent they are on migrant labor to produce their tasty treats.
Law of the Land
Police officers Matthew Tomasic and Chato Villalobos are veteran police officers based in Kansas City, Missouri’s Westside, home to one of the Midwest’s largest Hispanic neighborhoods. It’s been a place where the undocumented are not defined solely by their legal status and can find refuge at the local migrant labor center staffed by police officers. Can a policy benefit the country but fracture a community?
Justin Semahoro is a 27-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo whose language skills and positive outlook have landed him on the path to success. Justin’s story sheds light onto what factors enable refugees to succeed—language, steady work, a caring community, and often a lot of luck
The International Welcome School is a safe haven for refugee children to transition into mainstream American life. Unique to the St. Louis area, yet international in its reach – the Welcome School teaches children the linguistic and cultural tools necessary to survive in America.
A New Normal
Karzan Bahaaldin is a 36-year-old civil engineer from Iraq, whose current job at the front desk in a downtown St. Louis hotel has led him to consider returning home. Like Karzan, more than 1.3 million immigrants currently residing in the United States are underutilized and underemployed. Often low-skilled workers have an easier time finding work in America. America seeks to maintain its technical edge in the world, but its policy does little to help these forgotten workers. His story highlights that for many highly skilled immigrants, The United States is just one of many places to take their expertise.