In 2007 millions of people took to the streets to demand comprehensive immigration reform. Despite these strong numbers, we were unsuccessful in getting legislation passed that year. But we did learn one key lesson from this fight: in order to win immigration reform, we need to reach out to non-immigrant communities and educate them about how the system is broken—and what they can do to become allies in this important fight. Montana is a state with a small immigrant population in a sparsely populated space, making it easy for its lawmakers to feel that they don’t need to take a stance on the issue. As a result, residents and citizens fall victim to the barrage of hateful language and misinformation that is so prevalent in the immigration debate.
NWFCO has been engaging in the necessary, on-the-ground to start engaging all Montanans in this important discussion. We are sponsoring screenings of the movie Papers as an introduction to the experiences of undocumented youth. Papers is a documentary that tells the story of five brave young people who choose to risk deportation to countries they barely remember in order to bring to light the issues facing the two million undocumented children who live in the U.S. today. There have been screenings in Bozeman and Billings, with a larger showing planned for Helena in May. After each showing, a discussion is held about issues brought up in the movie. These discussions have brought in audience members who have never had a space to talk about their concerns and feelings about immigration.
We also have been partnering with local faith and community groups to bring the immigration board game into churches, community groups, and schools in the far reaches of the state. The board game is based on real life experiences of immigrants from the Northwest. As players get stuck in the “undocumented limbo loop,” they gain a deeper understanding of how the current immigration system breaks with the fundamental American values of family and justice.
If you are interested in hosting a game or movie night contact betsy(at)nwfco(dot)org.