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ICFRC: Refugees and Immigrants - How Their Stories and Experiences Inform Public Policy

Listen to an audio podcast of this program.

In this final session of the 6-part Refugees and Immigrants in Iowa series, the panel discusses how perceptions and policies about diversity and inclusion at the local level have evolved, and the part refugees and immigrants have played in this evolution.

Panelists also offer their views on how policymakers in Des Moines might look to Iowa's most diverse towns to help create new welcoming and inclusive policies to support the state's growing reputation as a place refugees and immigrants seek to call home.

Art Cullen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, editor of The Storm Lake Times (a family-run weekly newspaper in small-town Iowa), and author of the new book, Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper. Art has made it his life's work to ask the big questions, speak truth to power, and share the struggles and successes of his unique community of Storm Lake, Iowa (Census pop. 10,076). In politically divisive times, when Americans from Red States and Blue States often feel estranged from each other, Art Cullen's book attempts to show an optimistic way forward -- that there is still abundant hope in the Heartland.

Caleb Knutson was born in Tegucigalpa (Honduras) and grew up in rural Iowa. He has most recently served as the City Planner for the city of Marshalltown. Caleb and his wife also operate their family's startup coffee shop in Story City. At Iowa State University, he studied Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as Community and Regional Planning. Presently Caleb serves on the Empower Rural Iowa Grow Task Force, Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs, the Iowa American Planning Association (APA) Board and the Iowa APA DEI Committee for which he is the Co-Chair. He resides in rural Hardin county with his spouse Anjuleah and their three children, three cats, one Chinese Dwarf hamster, one chocolate lab, and 0ne Fish (RIP Lightning). When Caleb isn't working he enjoys coaching his children in various sports, introducing them to "new" music, and building Star Wars Lego sets. His motto comes from Kawhi Leonard: Board man gets paid.

Cristina Ortiz is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota Morris where she also contributes to the Latin American Area Studies and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies programs. Her research interests began as an effort to understand her own heritage as the grandchild of Mexican-American migrant workers who settled in the Midwest. She is broadly interested in issues of rurality, belonging, ethnic identities, labor, and migration. Her research explores the everyday experiences of rural Midwesterners with a particular focus on communities with Latinx and immigrant residents.

Cara McFerren is an artist, business woman, wife, mother, elected official, and third generation Mexican-American. Born in the Midwest, she grew up in Davenport Iowa. In 1992, McFerren received her BFA from the College of Design at Iowa State University in Ames In 1997, she and her husband moved to West Liberty, thereby beginning their journey into small-town rural living. Presently, they have been very busy raising a son and operating their own business, Cardinal Sign & Graphics, a vinyl graphics company. In 2015, McFerren was the first Mexican-American woman to be elected to West Liberty's city council. In 2019, she was elected for a second term. She is one of five council members, all at-large, and, as of 2021, a member of Iowa's first city council to have a majority of Latino members.

For more information on the Foreign Relations Council visit their website at www.icfrc.org.

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