“I didn’t know how much I didn’t know: AHC perspectives from the immigration symposium

When I read that convoluted quote I gave to the Laramie Boomerang, I thought to myself, “Now why did they print that?  I sound like an idiot.”  But then I realized it is the only way to describe it.  The immigration symposium has me thinking about immigration issues from angles I’ve never considered before.  The event humanized the issues for me in a way I’ve never experienced, but also revealed the tremendous complexities.  I know I’m not alone in my impressions, so I set about this morning to poll my AHC colleagues who attended sections of the symposium.


Jose Antonio Vargas and former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson share a laugh over lunch.

Details from the morning panel struck a chord with AHC Associate Director Rick Ewig and recalled to him that immigration is nothing new to Wyoming. During that panel, UW History Professor Phil Roberts spoke of the roles Wyoming U.S. Senators John B Kendrick (D – 1917-1933) and Francis E. Warren (R – 1890-1893, 1895-1929) had in encouraging immigrants to come to Wyoming for agricultural labor, especially in the sugar beets fields.  And Dr. Roberts reminded us that Europeans, Blacks, Asians and Hispanics comprised 40.5% of the total population in 1870; 29.6% in 1880; and 26.1% in 1890 at the time of Wyoming statehood. As of 2010, 3.2% of Wyoming residents were foreign-born.

Particularly moving to AHC Director Mark Greene was the personal testimony of José Rivas, Bertine Bahige, and Jose Antonio Vargas.  Mark noted that “all of them had different perspectives on the process and dilemma of being an ‘alien,’ documented or undocumented, in the U.S.”  Jose Antonio Vargas’ candid and engaging presentation manner impressed AHC Accounting Associate Meghan Monahan. “I liked his personal touch in that he took the time to research Wyoming statistics when it came to immigration, especially since he does so many talks around the country.”

Panelists for morning session

Panelists for the morning session of the symposium.

Arrangement and Description Head Claudia Thompson noticed that although U.S. Senator (Ret.) Alan K. Simpson made the point in his presentation that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts, speakers on the afternoon panel “asserted contradictory facts, each in perfect faith that their facts were right.” After the symposium, she concluded, “Many people have much to gain from reform, and reform is possible if everyone is willing to look for common ground and compromise. Without compromise, nothing can be changed. Senator Simpson said it would take another thirty years to find resolution…I don’t think we can wait another thirty years. The current situation isn’t fair to anyone.”

It was a great day of dialogue, and we hope the dialogue will continue.  Thanks to all of you who were part of it!

–Leslie Waggener, Simpson Institute

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