Immigration

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

A musical collaboration between the International Institute of St. Louis and the St. Louis Symphony will have the sounds of Syria, Somalia, Palestine, Bosnia, Congo and Cuba streaming from the gym at the institute come May 3.

The purpose of Music Without Boundaries is to make immigrants new to the area feel welcomed by connecting them to the sounds of their homeland.

For Maureen Byrne, the director of community programs at the St. Louis Symphony, the collaboration was a logical fit.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Susan Gobbo, a native of Brazil, moved to the United States in 2005 and then to St. Louis in 2008 with her husband, who was offered a position stateside with Nestle Purina. Sounds like an exciting move, right?

One problem: Gobbo, a trained and licensed physical therapist in her home country, was not able to find a physical therapy job in the United States because many medical facilities viewed her as unqualified. The costs for training and recertification were high, so Gobbo’s high expectation of life in the U.S. deflated a little bit.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

While Donald Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric about immigrants (calling Latino immigrants “criminals” and “rapists,” for example) has scored thousands of headlines across the globe, political scientist Zoltan Hajnal said there is a growing number of white, working class Americans who back up those kind of beliefs.

Sadik Kukic, far left, Benjamin Moore, Akif Cogo and Patrick McCarthy listen to a live stream of Radovan Karadzic's verdict while gathered at the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce on Gravois Avenue.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The European war crimes trial that’s been called “the largest since Nuremburg” ended Thursday, bringing uneasy relief to the St. Louis Bosnian community. Former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic was convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity and one count of genocide, but many of the region's Bosnians still felt underwhelmed by the decision.

"A guilty verdict on any count is better than no guilty verdict. And that’s against the backdrop of realizing that the mere existence of a crime tribunal is a failure,” said Dina Strikovic. “It’s a failure to act. It’s a failure to prevent."

International Institute of St. Louis president and CEO Anna Crosslin, today, and with her parents in Tokyo in 1952.
Anna Crosslin

The head of the International Institute of St. Louis says she is looking forward to taking her passion for equity to a statewide level.

Anna Crosslin is one of Gov. Jay Nixon's two nominees to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. The Commission investigates complaints about discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on factors like race, gender, and national origin.

Texas Room recording Session
Provided by Jarred Gastriech

Last year local musician Louis Wall decided to record and produce an album pairing St. Louis-born with immigrant musicians. At the time, he didn’t know it would expand to include roughly 50 people from 15 countries across five continents. Wall says the key to making an album with that many contributors is keeping it accessible to everyone.

“I mean, this is probably just pop music 101, but it’s having people relate to many broad things,” he said.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The president of Maryville University’s Muslim Student Association wants to set something straight:

“People need to understand that the real face of Islam is the face you see in front of you right now,” said Shehmin Awan. “It is us three people. It’s the billions of people who are practicing peacefully. It is not the face of ISIL or ISIS or whatever you want to call it. It’s not the face of a terrorist.

James Fernandez and Luis Agreo.

A Spanish author and filmmaker and NYU professor have come to St. Louis this week to do field work and discuss their book about Spanish immigration in the U.S. — particularly to St. Louis. Luis Agreo and Dr. James D. Fernandez travelled the world for nine years to understand the plight of Spanish immigrants across the globe.  It is called "Invisible Immigrants: Spaniards in the U.S. (1868-1945)."

Bosnians of all ages gathered near the Sebilj Fountain in South City
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Twenty years ago the Dayton Peace Accord put an end to the extreme violence and ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian War. But many St. Louis Bosnians feel the document left the country with no road to progress.

Two area organizations are looking to further their missions by honoring the legacy of Cesar Chavez, even though the labor organizer and Latino rights activist only briefly visited the state. 

The Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates Coalition (MIRA) is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a series of events that look to explain how the organization fits within the history of immigration rights reform. This weekend the organization helps launch an exhibit focused on Chavez facilitated by the Hispanic Arts Council at the St. Louis Public Library .  

Kenyan immigrant Geoffrey Soyiantet on Oct. 6
Kameel Stanley | St. Louis Public Radio

Many organizations in St. Louis have made a concerted effort recently to be more welcoming to refugees and immigrants.

But that doesn’t mean that when people get here they have an easy adjustment.

That process should be made easier, some say, with a new effort called the Immigrant Service Providers Network.

A new report finds the rate of homeownership among foreign-born residents in St. Louis is lower than the nation's.
Jim Larrison | Flickr

As St. Louis leaders are looking to turn the city into the fastest-growing metro region for immigrants in the next few years to spur economic growth, a new report shows that a majority of the city's foreign-born residents don't own their own homes. 

Flickr | DIGITIZEDCHAOS

Hanging on to more international students they graduate from university could help large companies grow in St. Louis, but an obstacle course of legal and cultural hurdles often stand in the way.

That’s a key takeaway from a new report from researchers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and the St. Louis Mosaic Project, an organization that aims to make the region the fastest growing metro area for immigrants by 2020.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

More than a dozen college students whose parents illegally entered the United States years ago are asking Gov. Jay Nixon for help with suddenly higher tuition rates.

Lawmakers added language to the preamble of a budget bill stating that students who are "unlawfully in the United States" don't qualify for in-state tuition rates and cannot receive scholarships.

Millennium Student Center at UMSL
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Students who have lived in Missouri for nearly all of their lives and graduated from Missouri schools are no longer considered Missourians when it comes to the tuition they must pay at public colleges and universities.

Bosnians and thier allies marched down Gravois Ave. Saturday in honor of the Srebrenica massacre
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

About 1,500 people gathered in south St. Louis to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide Saturday evening with a solemn re-enactment and walk.

Original Story published July 9, 2015

  Elvir Ahmetovic, 33, is a teacher in the St. Louis public school system. Twenty years ago, he was a child living through an event that has been called the largest civilian slaughter on European soil since the holocaust

“My parents thought, OK, this is something temporary, something ephemeral, we are civilized people after all, we will not let the situation escalate that bad, but unfortunately just in a matter of weeks they came to our village and started killing people,” he said.

Anna Crosslin (left) and Betsy Cohen (right)
Alex Heuer

St. Louis regional leaders launched an initiative entitled the St. Louis Mosaic Project to make the region the fastest growing metro area for immigrants by 2020. Now in its third year, the goal of the project is to promote regional prosperity through immigration and innovation.

Blunt – Flickr/Gage Skidmore; McCaskill – Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill

Even though they’re in the minority, Senate Democrats are flexing their muscles -- and stopping, at least for now, the new Republican majority's $39.7 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security.

At issue? President Barack Obama’s executive order halting deportations for up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. The Republicans want to cut funding for the executive order; the Democrats don't.

Part of Adria and Her Treasures record "Unde Dragoste (Where Love)?" for The Texas Room
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Local music producer and sound engineer Louis Wall thinks challenging area international and local musicians to produce a collaborative album will help push artists beyond their social boundaries. 

“I kind of like that element of putting people out in their own place - if you stick with someone else’s culture then you might realize ‘I’ve got one too and I need to discover what that is and where I come from,’” said Wall.

Dancers perform at the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration at Holy Trinity Parish on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014.
Camille Phillips | St.Louis Public Radio

At Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in St. Ann, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is cause for major celebration. The north St. Louis County church honored the patron saint of Mexico last month with a special mass attended by more than 300 people, many of them Hispanic.

When the church bell struck noon, the parishioners processed around the church with an icon of the patron saint, singing songs in Spanish, led by a mariachi band. Inside the sanctuary, dancers in red moved to the beat of a drum, and the priest gave a blessing to the children.

The YWCA has been involved in social justice issues for about 150 years, but many people still don’t know the organization’s mission, CEO Dara Richardson-Heron said.

“At the YWCA, we know that we cannot rest until racial, social and gender justice become a reality,” she told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday.

Mark Parkinson, r St. Charles 2014
Official state photo

Legislation introduced earlier this week would require businesses to certify their employees' resident status using the federal electronic verification system. Supporters of the bill hope it will discourage illegal immigration.

Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is a city built on immigration – from the early French settlers, to the Germans and Irish in the 1800s, to the more modern immigration of Bosnians and Southeast Asians.

While there have been numerous waves of immigration into St. Louis, the welcome extended by existing religious groups to new immigrants has remained fairly consistent throughout St. Louis' 250 year history.

Providing Resources

Emanuele Berry/St. Louis Public Radio

Tigrinya, Nepali, Somali, Arabic, Vietnamese: These are just some of the languages that clashed as translators relayed information about becoming a U.S. citizens to more than 100 lawful permanent residents. Many of those in attendance at the St. Louis International Institute event were refugees.

The information session covered requirements for becoming a citizen, the application process, classes available at the International Institute to help prepare for the citizenship interview, medical waiver information and success stories.

welcometoUSA.gov

President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration could impact foreign-born entrepreneurs looking to invest in St. Louis.

At a panel discussion Wednesday, legal experts addressed the potential benefits of the executive order and current visa options for foreign investors. The event was part of the Advance St. Louis Seminar Series, a collaboration between the Center for Emerging Technologies and the Polsinelli law firm.

Akif Cogo
Rebecca Smith | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis region’s Bosnian community long has been touted as the largest in the world outside of Bosnia itself.

But, as some local activists add ruefully, their numbers have yet to translate into political clout.

“We definitely have that sense of being ignored,’’ said Akif Cogo, founder of St. Louis Bosnians Inc., a nonprofit organization advocating for the tens of thousands of Bosnian-Americans who now call St. Louis home.

A pro immigration rally in Kirkwood in 2013 asked that families not be divided.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Beacon | file photo

As Rosa watched President Barack Obama spell out an executive order on immigration Thursday night, her feelings were mixed. Rosa, who is an undocumented immigrant in St. Louis, asked that we only use her first name.

She could qualify for temporary deportation relief under Obama’s executive action orders — she has a son who is a U.S. citizen. But even though she qualifies, she’s saddened that many fellow immigrants don’t.

DON"T USE TOO SMALL Claire McCaskill
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo

With a notable exception, congressional reaction to President Barack Obama's decision to issue an executive order on immigration divided predictably along partisan lines.

Republicans universally panned Obama’s action as “lawless” and unconstitutional while Democrats, for the most part, praised and defended his decision to act where Congress has failed.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., issued a statement that managed to criticize both congressional inaction and the reliance on executive orders to address such an important and contentious issue.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she learned a lot from her unsuccessful run for governor in 2004.
Sen. McCaskill's Flickr page

The president and his administration are maintaining regular contact with Missouri officials ahead of an announcement by the grand jury investigating the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told reporters this week that she spoke with President Barack Obama on Tuesday for what she described as a “full and complete discussion about a lot of issues surrounding Ferguson.”  She added that “I’m in contact with the Department of Justice every few days, encouraging them to continue their independent and complete investigation.”

NathanReed / Flickr

On the national level, the issue of immigration seems to be as divisive as ever. President Barack Obama is reportedly preparing to sign an executive order to protect millions of people from deportation. In response, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has warned that if the president acts unilaterally, it will “poison the well” when it comes to relations with GOP members of Congress.

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