In January of 2016, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman started his mission to improve relations between the local Latinx community and the city government by implementing a Latino Advisory Committee.
The committee, accompanied by Stutsman, Goshen Police Chief Jose Miller and Assistant Chief Shawn Turner furthered their goal last Thursday evening as they held a community meeting in St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church to address a broad range of issues.
Richard Aguirre, member of the Latino Advisory Committee and community impact coordinator at Goshen College, organized the meeting for the 200 people in attendance.
According to Aguirre, the goal of the meeting was to “reduce anxiety and fear among Latinos, especially those who are undocumented.”
Mayor Stutsman assured immigrants, refugees and members of the Latinx community that they are all welcome in Goshen.
“He listened to the concerns of different people and tried to answer as many questions as he could about different topics,” said Berenice Rodriguez, sophomore at GC. “It made me feel really happy to see how much effort he puts into helping undocumented people.”
Among the topics addressed, a point of interest addressed in the discussion was on tolerance toward undocumented immigrants in regards to driving and owning a driver’s license. According to Aguirre, Mayor Stutsman is in favor of supporting a state law allowing undocumented people to own a driver’s license.
This is a conversation that could have serious implications in the near future.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the idea has been circulating legislatures across the nation including states such as Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota and more. In June, the Oregon House officially passed a bill that would grant undocumented immigrants access to a driver’s license.
Other issues from the meeting included affirmation from the Goshen Police Department that they will not help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) make arrests, assurance from Mayor Stutsman that he is dedicated to helping protect people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and communication on how police treat people without a driver’s license who are stopped for a traffic violation.
Aguirre said those in attendance applauded loudly for many of the significant statements.
Another point of emphasis from the meeting was providing information for those attending on services they have access to.
The National Immigrant Justice Center, La Casa and the Center for Healing and Hope were the three organizations represented at the church. People were encouraged to speak with a representative following the meeting about what services they have to offer.
Aguirre also urged Mayor Stutsman to encourage attendees to sign up for the Goshen Resident Identification Card program, an initiative started by Aguirre. He later reported that 19 people registered to get a card that night.
Aguirre opened his address to the crowd by acknowledging the national perception of immigrants: “Since Donald Trump was elected President, he has ordered terrible changes to U.S. immigration policies and enforcement.”
“Thanks to God, Goshen is a different place,” Aguirre said. “Goshen welcomes immigrants, refugees and Latinos.”