Immigrants | St. Louis Public Radio

Immigrants

Jorge Riopedre, Executive Director of Casa de Salud.
File Photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Jorge Riopedre, president and CEO of the Casa de Salud clinic, said Monday he’s leaving the St. Louis nonprofit in November. 

Riopedre started as executive director of the clinic, which offers low-cost health care to uninsured foreign-born people, shortly after it opened in 2010. Since then, Casa de Salud has more than quadrupled its number of employees to 28, doubled in physical size and served patients from more than 90 countries.

Ben Zeno, Casa de Salud's mental health coordinator, stands in the clinic's lobby. Since it's opened in 2018, the clinic has provided low-cost or free therapy to more than 300 people.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

After years of preparation, Casa de Salud, the low-cost clinic for uninsured immigrants and refugees, is providing mental health services to 100 people a month. 

Early last year, the clinic opened a mental health facility in a renovated mechanic’s garage. To help staff the facility, it provides free clinic space to budding counselors who take on Casa de Salud patients as part of their caseload.

That brings mental health care to patients who need help but often can't obtain it because there aren't enough available therapists or because they don't speak English, have insurance or transportation.

At a pediatric clinic in Kirksville, Mo., a young boy is waiting in an exam room to be vaccinated. A nurse explains the shots to his mother, and Lisette Chibanvunya translates.

Dozens of people line up for a Thanksgiving dinner-style meal organized for immigrants and refugees at the International Institute of St. Louis on Nov. 20, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees had the opportunity to experience their first Thanksgiving in St. Louis on Tuesday, a few days early.

The annual event held by the International Institute of St. Louis included games, raffle tickets and a group rendition of the classic folk song, “This Land is Your Land.”

After 10 years of consistent gains, the number of immigrant families enrolled in SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, fell by 10 percent in 2018.

New, preliminary research presented this month at the American Public Health Association conference showed the drop was highest for for families who had been in the U.S for fewer than five years. It’s a reflection of what Harvest Public Media and other outlets reported earlier this year: that some families are choosing not to participate in federal benefit programs out of fear it could impact their immigration status.

Families gather at the Fairmont City libary to play, read books and take classes.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It's a common sight at the Fairmont City Library Center: Students discussing the grammar and syntax of English sentences in small groups.

On a recent night, the teacher wanted to know what another word for “per” is. The word got lost in translation. Some students suggested “for,” but in the sentence the teacher gave the correct answer is “each.” It was a confusing answer for one student who offered the Spanish word for “each” instead. It’s “cada.”

The class is just one of the night English language classes the library offers adult native Spanish speakers in the area who want to perfect their second language.

Globalhack VII tackles challenges faced by local agencies that serve immigrant community.
Globalhack

Globalhack VII, a 48-hour hack-athon, returns to the Chaifetz Arena on the Saint Louis University campus this weekend with the goal to develop software to aid local agencies that serve immigrant and refugee communities in the region.

Matt Menietti, executive director of Globalhack, calls the event a “civic tech project.” More than 700 hackers are expected to participate in the event with $100,000 in prizes to be awarded to the best software solutions on Sunday.

This article first appeared in the St. Lous Beacon, Oct. 5, 2011 - Jack Shenker, a journalist who has been honored for his human rights reporting, took a different way of looking at the Arab Spring during a recent speech at Webster University. He spoke about the struggles of migrants, how they are received by the communities they impact, and misconceptions surrounding migrations around the globe.

Immigration scholars (from left) Jorg Ploger, Adriano Udani and Florian Sichling discussed the incorporation of immigrants and refugees into their respective communities.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands of miles separate St. Louis, Missouri, from Dortmund, Germany, but when it comes to immigration and refugee resettlement, the two cities aren’t so far apart.

Among the most pressing debates that link them are the “politically contradicting messages about the purpose of immigration,” as Florian Sichling describes the issue.

In "Islandborn," Junot Diaz writes for immigrant children.
Illustration by Leo Espinosa

For more than 20 years, novelist Junot Diaz has explored the immigrant experience.

From his debut 1996 novel, “Drown,” a semi-autobiographical work on the life of a young Dominican transplant to the United States, to “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, Diaz has found inspiration in the culture that surrounds him. 

His work has won him more than just accolades. He is a MacArthur “genius grant” winner and teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his books and in person, his use of language is very much for an adult audience. But for years, his two goddaughters and other children have asked him to craft stories with them in mind. Diaz has done so with his latest book, “Islandborn,” which tackles the dilemma of an island girl in the United States: How do I remember where I come from?

Words from home: Newspapers

Oct 8, 2017
Chinese-American News offices in University City. 2008. 300 pixels wide
Courtesy of the News

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 5, 2008 - Area residents don't have to go online or to another country to read ethnic newspapers. Publications here have been breaking news and keeping the region informed in languages other than English for decades.

Today, the Bosnian Sabah, Spanish Red Latina and Chinese-American News along with national publications like Il Pensiero are keeping that tradition alive. The papers are also looking to the future and possible reinvention as English language publications - or dual language publications - with a specific ethnic focus.

Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

Estie Cruz-Curoe knows black beans.

The Cuban native came to the United States in the early 1960s and grew up in Miami, where her mother added a Cuban mix of spices to canned black beans. But when Cruz-Curoe moved to the Midwest as an adult, she could no longer find the right black beans.

Erika and her daughter, Alison, sit on the porch of their St. Louis home. Potraits of the two will be featured in Saturday's exhibit.
Lindy Drew | Humans of St. Louis

Advocates from the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project normally help St. Louis clients navigate the complex U.S. immigration system. But this weekend, their efforts will take on a more artistic bent.

“We’ve always wanted to be able to portray our clients as really full, well-rounded people,” explained Jessica Mayo, attorney and co-director at the MICA project. “As more than just their immigration story.”

Red and blue, circular logo of the American Cricket Academy & Club.
American Cricket Academy & Club

A cricket field opening Saturday in St. Charles County signals how much the sport is growing in the region.

The venue at BaratHaven Park in Dardenne Prairie will, for the first time, give the American Cricket Academy and Club of St. Louis a dedicated home to practice and play.

Local enthusiasm for the sport has been largely driven by Indian and other immigrant communities, said ACAC founder and executive director Ajay Jhamb.

Musicians band together to support immigrant rights

Mar 17, 2017
The Rise & Scream poster gives the date and depicts a closed fist raised in the air.
Provided by Vincent Saletto

When Vinnie Saletto and his wife considered adopting a child from overseas, they turned to the International Institute of St. Louis to learn more about how immigrants fare in St. Louis.

As Saletto learned more about the Institute’s mission — and noticed an increasing wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States — he felt compelled to support to the organization. So he turned to his passion, music, and began organizing a benefit concert for the institute.

The concert “Rise and Scream” will take place Saturday at 2720 Cherokee Performing Arts Center. About 90 people are contributing to the event —  from bands to artists, cooks to vendors. Many will voice opposition to the Trump administration's immigration policies.

The International Institute in St. Louis helps immigrants to get settled, find housing and find jobs. Feb 2017
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

The International Institute of St. Louis is highlighting a new report that delves into the numbers behind immigrants in the United States.

The national organization New American Economy released the report “Map the Impact” on Tuesday. The report breaks down not just the number of immigrants in each congressional district, metropolitan area and state, but also looks at what they provide in taxes, spending power, education and entrepreneurship.

Jay Kanzler, the Almuttan family’s attorney for years, paces in front of Country Club Hills' empty city hall building. He says the city's mayor has been targeting the Almuttans for years.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

A Muslim man has filed a lawsuit against the city of County Club Hills, Mayor Bender McKinney and three aldermen, claiming that they discriminated against him.

In a suit filed last week in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Mohammed Almuttan, who is Palestinian,  claims he was denied a business license for a laundromat based on his nationality and religion.  He and his family, their attorney, and the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations have called for McKinney's resignation.

Grace Jo, now an American citizen, defected from North Korea at age six. She's now the vice president of NKinUSA, which advocates for human rights for North Koreans.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

As a little girl in North Korea, Grace Jo lived through one of the worst famines in North Korean history. While the official death toll from the notoriously most restrictive authoritarian country in the world is unknown, it is estimated that from 1994 to 1998, anywhere between 600,000 and 2.5 million people died of hunger.

Nancy Fowler and Jenny Simeone joined "St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh about stories they reported on this week for St. Louis Public Radio.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, we took you behind the headlines to discuss the week’s top stories as reported by St. Louis Public Radio. This week, we peered deeper into how people in LGBT and immigrant communities are dealing with the results of the 2016 election.

Joining the program were St. Louis Public Radio’s Arts and Culture Reporter Nancy Fowler and Diversity Fellow Jenny Simeone.

Here are two background stories that would be helpful to read:

Arjun Sidhu holds an American flag while sitting with his mother, Mandeep Sidhu, originally from India, at a naturalization ceremony held at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site on Nov. 10, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While much of the nation remains at odds over the results of the November elections, some people are feeling more optimistic for the future than ever. Newly naturalized U.S. citizens in the St. Louis region are excited to be a part of the country, and many are raring to vote.

At a naturalization ceremony held last week at the International Institute of St. Louis, 39 people from 24 different countries stood together in front of a crowded room for the first time as new citizens.

Among them was Lenilson Pereira Dos Santos Coutinho, a clinical medial physicist who was born in Brazil. Coutinho, who came to the United States for graduate school, laments not being able to vote on Nov. 8. Now that he’s a citizen, he can’t wait for future elections.

Katie Herbert Meyer and Stephen Legomsky discussed the efforts of Migrant & Immigrant Community Action Project in St. Louis on St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Since Nov. 9 and the results of the presidential election, the phones have been “ringing off the hook” at St. Louis’ Migrant & Immigrant Community Action Project. MICA is a local nonprofit that provides immigration law services at a reduced cost for documented and undocumented immigrants who cannot afford to pay the thousands of dollars it would take to retain an attorney in asylum, work authorization and other kinds of immigration cases.

Miley, age 4, whose mother is undocumented, receives a letter of support and encouragement during a community dinner at Kingdom House on Nov. 17, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Nov. 8, Martha’s 8-year-old daughter didn’t want to go to school.

“When I asked her why, she said she was worried that if [Donald] Trump won, I wouldn’t be there to pick her up after school,” Martha said, in Spanish. “I told her, if he wins or not, I’ll be there for you.”

That certainty could wane in January. The president-elect has pledged to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants after his inauguration. Martha, who is undocumented, said the election results have heightened her and her family’s fears about deportation.

Two immigrant men hang suspended in the air as window washers in the play "Spended"
Provided by ProPhotoSTL.com

As the St. Louis metro area continues to take note of the region's growing status as a magnet for newcomers from other countries, Upstream Theater will launch "Suspended," a play that aims to break down assumptions about immigrants.

Director Linda Kennedy said stories about the relationship between immigrants and longtime residents can strengthen both communities.

Vince Bantu (left) listens to speaker SueJeanne Koh at the Summit for Future Theological Educators of Color, a conference held in Evanston, Ilinois, in the summer of 2014.
Vince Bantu | Jubilee Community Church

What exactly is an “inter-minority" dialogue?

For Vince Lee Bantu, it’s a space for where people of color can come share their common cultural experiences and nuanced struggles while building connections.

On Saturday, Inter-Minority Dialogue is an event with workshops that will explore topics that include “Latinos, Immigration, and the Church;” “Being Arab in St. Louis;” and “Partnering with Refugees.” Organized by local faith leaders like Bantu to focus on the experiences of people of color, the event will take place at Comunidad Cristiana Vida Abundante, 1216 Sidney St., in St. Louis.

students celebrate graduation day with flags
Facebook|Mosaic Project

The foreign-born population in the St. Louis area grew by about 9 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to census data collected in the American Community Survey.

During that time, the number of immigrants grew to 129,559. St. Louis attracted the highest percentage increase of the nation's top 20 metropolitan areas, beating out New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 3, 2012 - A few weeks ago, while writing a story about approaching events for Hispanic Heritage Month, I stood up and said to my editors: “Which one’s right? Hispanic or Latino?”

Like good editors, they all had different answers. So we turned to the bible of journalism, the Associated Press stylebook, which said something to the effect of, it’s preferable to use Latino but Hispanic is OK, under the Latino heading, and it’s preferable to use Hispanic but Latino is OK, under the Hispanic heading.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 1, 2012 - When war broke out in Bosnia, Ibro Tucakovic and his family didn’t stay for long.

One summer day, it was bright and hot and he hung around with friends at a playground near his Sarajevo home. When shells fell on the playground killing neighborhood kids, his family had enough.

“We left two days after that,” he says.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 12, 2012 - SPOILER ALERT: This article contains information about one subject in the Nine Network’s documentary, “Homeland: Immigration in America,” which aired Wednesday night. If you haven’t seen it yet and don’t wish to know what happened, read no further.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 19, 2012 - If the welcome mat immigrants find when they come to St. Louis seems dusty and a bit frayed, it could be replaced entirely in the next year, thanks to a new initiative. 

Tuesday morning, businesses, community and civic leaders and immigrants themselves gathered at the Danforth Plant Science Center for the second annual Economic Development Conference

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 2, 2012 - Almost 50 years ago, and she can still remember those nights. Men with guns rattled the windows and doors of her home while Haniny Hillberg and her family hid in their beds. 

The men wanted her brother, a revolutionary who protested in the streets against the government as Bolivia edged toward revolution.

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