Local group wants open dialogue on immigration

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It's a topic that has sparked heated debates across the country...immigration.

Thursday night in South Bend, people gathered for a meeting on how immigration affects Michiana.

"All we wanna do is be contributing members of this community," DACA recipient Yessica Gonzalez said. "My sister as a nurse and me as a social worker, we're providing health services. There's many DACA like me that just wants to contribute to our community in a positive way."

Yessica Gonzalez immigrated to the United States when she was seven-years-old.

She earned herself a full ride to IU Bloomington only to have it be taken away a week before classes started.

Yessica is a DACA student and did not have a social security number.

Like many DACA students, Yessica experienced many road blocks but finally earned her degree in social work this year.

"I wouldn't necessarily see it as a competition from non DACA professionals to DACA professionals, but yet all professionals working together to bring services to a community to make it stronger and better," Gonzalez said.

Thursday night, the Community Coalition for Immigration Reform held a public meeting to make the community aware of the positive impacts immigrants have in Michiana

A New American Economy study shows that immigrants paid over $300 million dollars in federal, state and local taxes in 2016.

"It's about reaching across the aisle, having conversations whether its economically, from a human rights perspective, from a social justice perspective, and being able to try to meet in the middle on some of these very complicated issues," La Casa de Amistad executive director Sam Centellas said.

One of the complicated issues discussed?...The Trump administration's border separations.

The event moderators saying people need to look at separations from a humanitarian standpoint.

While this meeting is looked at as a good starting point, participants want to continue the dialogue.

"This conversation is good but a lot of times based on my experience, we have great conversation," Dr. Janet Evelyn said. "We have great plans and it falls. So it lies on us to keep the conversation going."

Organizers from the event hope the topic of immigration becomes a bigger topic of conversation across the South Bend community. They hope that its a popular topic when it comes to the second district congressional race.