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Federal Immigration Policies Bring Uncertainty To Louisville's Latino Community

Americana Community Center Executive Director Edgardo Mansilla (left),  Mijente Louisville Spokesperson Jesús Ibañez (center), Define American Executive Director Ryan Eller(right)
Americana Community Center Executive Director Edgardo Mansilla (left), Mijente Louisville Spokesperson Jesús Ibañez (center), Define American Executive Director Ryan Eller(right)

Federal immigration policies will impact thousands of families this year, including many in the Louisville area. Local advocates for immigrants and refugees gathered to talk about those policies and how they affect the people they serve during WFPL’s In Conversation.

Our guests were:

  • Americana Community Center Executive Director Edgardo Mansilla
  • Define American Executive Director Ryan Eller
  • Mijente Louisville Spokesperson Jesús Ibañez

Listen to the episode:

Why does Louisville have so many fish fries?

Friday’s conversation was held a week after threatened Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on communities failed to materialize. But the spectre of those raids left Louisville’s immigrant communities unsettled.

Jesús Ibañez is a spokesperson for the advocacy group Mijente Louisville. He said rumors of ICE raids in Louisville scared some people from getting basic services.

“For example, if an undocumented woman or even a woman with residency is in a situation where they are being abused by their spouse or by somebody intimate or close to them, they will not report that. And we’ve seen that,” Ibañez said. “People are realizing that sometimes the United States is even worse than the countries they’re fleeing in terms of being oppressed and not being able to make a life for them and for their families.”

Last week, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin proposed to ban sanctuary cities in Kentucky. If approved, that would mean cities could not refuse tohelp ICE with enforcement and deportation.

Tension around federal immigration policy boiled last year when protesters led a weeks-long demonstration in front of Louisville’s ICE building. That protest brought hundreds to rally downtown and was led, in part, by Mijente’s Ibañez.

Edgardo Mansilla, executive director of the Americana Community Center, said the constant threat of deportation has affected the people his organization serves. Americana is a nonprofit whose mission is to support Louisville’s immigrant, refugee and underserved communities. 

“The major effect is despair, frustration, fear, [and] lack of hope. The idea that we are in a country who supports freedom -- that, sadly is no longer there,” Mansilla said. “All these expressions, sadly, are worse now. But they are not new to us.”

Mansilla and Ibañez said the public can help families by volunteering or otherwise supporting their organizations. Define American Executive Director Ryan Eller said the same. Define American is a nonprofit that tells affected peoples’ stories to contextualize the immigration debate. Eller said Louisville’s immigrant community is resilient, but they still fear being kicked out of the U.S.

“We can’t go around the world for centuries spreading the ethos of the American dream and the brilliance of american culture, and then ask people why they’re showing up on our doorstep, ringing our doorbell, asking to come in,” Eller said. “It needs to be a broader, fundamental conversation about who we are as Americans and what those values are.”

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about homelessness in Louisville.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.

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