Waukegan residents react to influx of migrant families

Waukegan residents Mary Misic and her daughter Heidi Bradke stand in the Waukegan's downtown area on Monday, August 4. |  Yadira Sanchez Olson/Sun-Times Media
Waukegan residents Mary Misic and her daughter Heidi Bradke stand in the Waukegan's downtown area on Monday, August 4. | Yadira Sanchez Olson/Sun-Times Media

“I don’t have a problem with that,” said Waukegan resident Mary Misic of immigrant families relocating from various parts of the world to Waukegan, the city where she was born.

Misic is the daughter of Serbian immigrants who came to Waukegan 56 years ago.

Her father, she said, came by boat and her mother followed a few months later by plane to deliver her at what was then called St. Therese Hospital (now, it’s Vista Medical Center West).

“Mom wanted me to be born in America,” Misic said. “They came here for better opportunities; a better life. Isn’t that what everyone wants for their family?”

Misic said that she remembers her parents being shunned by some who didn’t approve of the new immigrants coming into the city to make roots.

Ignorance and fear of the unfamiliar are what drives some to that behavior, she said.

“Making a life in a new country isn’t easy. I think education is important when cultures mix,” she said.

Some aspects of the Latino culture that Misic can relate to is how elders are honored and respected.

“They hold a high place in the family. I think that’s awesome,” Misic said.

She added that maybe if more people got to know people’s cultures, they might find a lot they can respect about one another.

“We’re really all alike. We want the best of everything for our kids,” Misic said.

Misic’s daughter, Heidi Bradke, agrees with her.

Bradke thinks it’s the city officials and the cultural groups who should do more to make those connections happen.

“We should (have) block parties for specific nationalities; with their food and music,” Bradke said.

She also suggests that signs at grocery stores and public areas not only be written in English and Spanish, but in other languages as well.

“We should be inclusive to everyone. Everyone or no one,” Bradke said.

Ty Rohrer, Waukegan History Museum supervisor, said that for the City of Waukegan, immigration is nothing new. Immigrants, he said, helped turn Waukegan into the city it is in the first place.

“In the 1830s to 1890s, there was an influx of European immigrants moving in for jobs and industries,” Rohrer said. “Latinos started coming in the 1960s.”

Rohrer said that change is indeed difficult for a community, but it doesn’t have to be bad for it.

“It’s common for (there to be) problems and for new immigrants to be looked down upon by others who are established,” Rohrer said. “Eventually, their children start to assimilate and cultures blend.”

He foresees no major changes in the trends for the city. Hispanics will still make up the majority of the population, he said. But he hopes positive interactions from all of its residents makes it a more progressive city.

“It’s in the best interest of a community, any community, to welcome its newcomers,” said Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights policy director Fred Tsao.

A welcoming approach eases tensions, he said, and avoids potential violence and harassment.

“We have a lot of bad scenarios that have played out in our history that have escalated from racial tensions,” Tsao said.

He added that in communities like Waukegan and Round Lake, immigrants have helped the economy by buying homes and starting businesses.

“Immigrants have impacted Illinois’ economy in a big way,” he added.

To the people who say that immigrants don’t pay their way, Tsao explains that if someone works, then they pay taxes. And if they own a home or buy anything, property and sales taxes are paid, as well.

He offers that it’s actually immigrants with a non-immigrant status who are in a disadvantageous situation because although they pay taxes, they are not eligible for benefits such as social security and medicaid.

As for education, Tsao said that everyone is entitled to public education. It’s the law. And that if police and fire departments only served and protected those with a valid legal status, they wouldn’t be efficient in protecting their communities.

“It really is important for newcomers to feel welcome,” Tsao said.

Whether residents of a community have lived there for years or have just moved in and regardless of their immigrant or non immigrant status, Tsao said that “people feel more invested and are more engaged and likely to contribute positively when their neighbors welcome them.”

6 Comments

  • One who knows

    Yes I can! And I did because I'm talking about the immigrants in the story. Try and focus.

    2014-08-12 15:36:02 | Reply
  • Frank F

    Lets get to the point every video I see has these Illegals the kids and teenagers gang members wearing new cloths and high dollar shoes and they are all well feed so this is there Obama's stories fall apart. This is about all 11 million Illegals that are sitting around the stores in Manassas ,Woodbridge Virginia, Silver Spring, Gaithersburg, Maryland. drinking and defecating around the stores and taking jobs that people in America need as a second income to put food on the table and pay their rent. This is cutting wages by these Illegals getting cash payments paying no taxes and sending money back to other Illegals to travel to our country Illegally. If the news organization's would report the honest news about how Americans are really feed up with all the lies that Obama and Congress are feeding us when we see it for our selves in our faces every day we know the truth we have to live the truth not Obama and his privileged kids or Congress Men and Women bull s**t stories. This is a war on the America people if we as a united people do not stand up together and March On Washington DC on September 1,2014 Take Back America Day. We all loose America as it stands today your kids and grandkids will pay the price as America is turned in to a third world gang infested country. All the Illegals are marching in Washington DC demanding their rights and Obama and Congress are seeing them demanding rights that they do not have they are here illegally they are collecting welfare, paying no tax's and getting food stamps all at our expense. DHS, and The Department of Immigration are doing nothing at Obama's direction this is against the law! Enough is Enough take this to Obama's front door show him We The American People will not put up with this any more we demand action now deport all illegals close our borders and star enforcing our laws!!! I have photos of these illegals in my county and in Maryland all the biased media has to do is come to Manassas and I can take them on a true stop reporting lies and do your jobs and report both sides of the story.

    2014-08-11 20:05:33 | Reply
  • John Browm

    Let me know how you feel after you've lived by them for awhile - after they've moved all their family members in, But if they are white they would NEVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT NOT white PEOPLE THEY NEVER DO ANYTHING WRONG brown , black and yellow people Them People they are the ones taking the country down

    2014-08-11 18:46:28 | Reply
  • wake up, people

    "Tsao explains that if someone works, then they pay taxes"How does the government collect taxes from someone who gets paid in cash that isn't reported to the IRS? Not everyone who works is honest.How do you justify the extra tax dollars spent on police investigations for the immigrants that get arrested, and then change which last name they want to use so the police can't link them to other offenses? Or the ones that commit crimes and slink back to their home countries to escape justice?Where does the money come from to pay for ESL teachers, free medical and dental care, and the free school lunches their children receive?That's right, it comes from tax dollars taken from John and Jane Q. Public, whose ancestors came to this country wanting to be American. They changed their names to sound less ethnic so that they would fit in. They taught themselves English so that they would be accepted as Americans. They joined our military to fight for their new homeland.Most modern day immigrants do not care to learn English or assimilate in any way. They expect free handouts and do little to improve their lives. They do not want to be Americans. They just want the "freebies" that they believe they are entitled to.

    2014-08-11 15:25:37 | Reply
  • One who knows

    Let me know how you feel after you've lived by them for awhile - after they've moved all their family members in, they take up all the available parking on your street with the many cars they have, they drink non-stop from Friday night until Sunday and they play their music at full volume from Friday night until Sunday. I'm not saying they are all like that but they are the majority, not the minority.

    2014-08-11 13:53:03 | Reply
    • No, you really don't know

      I've had that happen to me once... except... THEY WERE WHITE! Omg insane, right? sarcasm/ I mean I really used to think that it was only THOSE people (brown/black/other) that did things like what you described. I guess you really can't generalize based on background, huh?

      2014-08-11 15:28:14 | Reply

Advertisement

Modal