Refugees and Immigrants - How Their Stories and Experiences Inform Public Policy

May 4, 2022
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Online via Zoom

The PPC is proud to support this lecture hosted by the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (ICFRC).

The ICFRC has hosted the series, Refugees and Immigrants in Iowa, as a catalyst for discussing issues that could lead to positive social change in our state, both for new residents, and those who have been here for years or even decades. We believe the experiences and the stories shared by refugees and immigrants can and should inform public policy–creating the kind of discussions that can provide valuable information for policymakers, and the general public. Stories of lived experiences, including those shared during the series, are most compelling when they echo what is already happening in communities across Iowa. In this final session of the 6-part series, the panel discussed how perceptions and policies about diversity and inclusion at the local level have evolved, and the part refugees and immigrants have played in this evolution. These new residents have discovered new opportunities for personal and professional growth and they have provided a needed workforce to support economic development in many of these communities, as well as a vibrancy of culture that benefits the community and the state.

This panel showcased the efforts of business and community leaders in towns such as Columbus Junction, Marshalltown, Storm Lake, and West Liberty, who strive to create a thriving inclusiveness for this new diversity, precipitated by the arrival of refugee and immigrant populations. They shared what has gone well in their respective towns, the difficulties they have overcome, and the challenges each continues to face. Panelists also offered their views on how policymakers in Des Moines might look to Iowa's most diverse towns to help create new welcoming and inclusive policies to support the state’s growing reputation as a place refugees and immigrants seek to call home.

Cristina Ortiz is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota Morris where she also contributes to the Latin American Area Studies and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies programs. Her research interests began as an effort to understand her own heritage as the grandchild of Mexican-American migrant workers who settled in the Midwest. She is broadly interested in issues of rurality, belonging, ethnic identities, labor, and migration. Her research explores the everyday experiences of rural Midwesterners with a particular focus on communities with Latinx and immigrant residents.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Connie Sherman at