Immigration meeting poorly attended |

Immigration meeting poorly attended

John Colson
Vail, CO Colorado

BASALT ” Only one of four Latinos who showed up at a meeting on Anglo-Latino relations Monday said he believed the Latino community in Basalt is feeling besieged by recent events.

And, he said, there would have been more Latinos at the meeting, held at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church, but for their fear of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The meeting, called by Tom Ziemann of Catholic Charities, was intended to attract Latinos and Anglos from around the valley to discuss rising tensions over immigration issues.

The meeting at St. Vincent’s in Basalt, led by Ziemann, Pastor Jose Saenz and Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda, drew about a dozen people, including three Latinos other than Saenz himself ” one man and two women.

The Latino man, who would identify himself only as Juan, has lived in Basalt for a decade and has children in the local schools. He said tensions in the Latino community have risen markedly after recent racially tinged incidents, including anti-Latino graffiti scrawled on the walls of a port-o-potty in Snowmass Village last spring, and the firing of shots through the window of the Basalt 7-Eleven last week.

Juan, who speaks little English, said through Catholic Charities’ translator Jim Coombs that the incidents have contributed to increased feelings of insecurity among Latinos.

When asked if the Latino community is ready for the kind of in-depth dialogue with the Anglo community that Ziemann and others have proposed, Juan said, “Yes, they are ready.”

Ziemann and Saenz both spoke of a need for Latinos and Anglos to meet face-to-face to discuss cultural differences, and the problems that arise from those differences.

“The main thing I am concerned about,” said Ziemann, “is there might be a potential for problems” over the Fourth of July holiday, noting that Anglos and Latinos will be drinking. He said the meetings in Basalt and Glenwood are meant to provide “a way to talk about how to keep things cool and how to move forward as a community.”

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