Immigration in Wisconsin: We Need the Humanities

Miguel Hernandez, pictured here, chooses to return to his hometown in Mexico after many years as a loyal and much-needed worker on a dairy farm. Los Lecheros is a short film that reveals the complexity of the current situation and the tension around Wisconsin dairy farms and undocumented workers.
Photo credit: Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Since the day he announced his candidacy, the President’s statements on immigration have provoked intense reactions, both for and against.  It’s pretty emotional.  But how familiar are you – or are most Wisconsinites — with the people the President is talking about?  With immigrants living in communities throughout Wisconsin today, or with the laws that govern their lives, the jobs they hold, or the measurable as well as unquantifiable effects their presence has on all of our lives?
To understand and talk knowledgeably about immigration isn’t easy.  We need numbers.  We need history.  We need the law.  We need immigrants’ stories that help us see the world through their eyes.  Which is another way of saying if we’re going to set aside passionate rhetoric to really talk, we need the humanities.
And that’s our plan.  This fall we’re going hold events around the state, gathering to talk about Wisconsin’s immigrants and their children – the documented and undocumented — and to consider the multiple ways immigration affects us all.
I’d love your help to get this effort going.  Maybe you can connect us to new community hosts, or have ideas about discussion topics or leaders.  Or maybe you want to know when events are scheduled, to join the conversation.
For now, here are some numbers and a story to chew on.  The numbers are: 4.8, 100,000, and 1.
4.8 – the percent of Wisconsin’s population who moved here from another country
100,000 — the number of foreign-born residents of Wisconsin’s 5.8 million total who are Latino/Hispanic
1 — the estimated percent of these 100,000 who are undocumented (to check out these numbers, click here)
What does this 1% mean?  Who are these undocumented people?  We need the story.  Los Lecheros takes you into a Wisconsin dairy barn to talk to undocumented workers and the farmer who employs them.  This 21-minute documentary by our partners at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is a great place to start.  Then stay tuned for announcements about events this fall, or contact me to plan an event near you.


This is the most recent letter “From the Director.”

Open up the conversation

From the Director Dena Wortzel










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