Social Issues

Alder Brienne Brown on impacts of immigration on Whitewater

Whitewater Common Council Alder Brienne Brown discusses communicating with state and federal lawmakers about migrants moving to the community and how immigration has played a role in its history.

By Nathan Denzin | Here & Now

February 14, 2024 • Southeast Region

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Nathan Denzin:
You talked about it a little bit, have you had any response to the letter, and you think that there might be help coming at some point in the, you know, next year or so?

Alder Brienne Brown:
Yeah, I mean, we haven't had any federal response to the letter yet, but some state, Tammy Baldwin has contacted us. And she's trying to figure out problem solving rather than, you know, political football type stuff. So she's gonna be coming to talk to staff. And, yeah, we might get some. It sounds like the governor may have heard a little bit and mentioned us as well to a couple people. So I suspect he's going to do what he can. I mean, he's not really in charge of the budget, but I suspect he'll do what he can to at least dig into it and figure out how we can fix some problems. I mean, the thing is, we are a community full of immigrants. I mean, if you look at our downtown, half of our successful businesses are immigrant businesses, whether they're Greek, Albanian, Vietnamese. The successful businesses downtown are ones from immigrants or immigrant children. So we want them here. We want them to build businesses. We want their kids in our schools. We want their kids to start businesses as well.

Nathan Denzin:
Do you have a message for people in Whitewater or people in the broader state about what's going on here?

Alder Brienne Brown:
It's a little bit of a pet peeve of mine, but I do think that Wisconsin is, it seems to be a place where a lot of immigrants come, and it always has been, right? I mean, when they came across, you know, the Great Lakes over here, it's still a place where we have immigrants, we have Ukrainians. I mean, we've got huge chunks of German population who still speaks some German. I grew up speaking Spanish because my parents were convinced that I needed to go to school to learn Spanish because I was gonna have to use that language someday. And I do, I use it on a daily basis. So really, my deepest desire is that we actually take language learning seriously in schools and actually get students taking language classes before middle school or high school, because we have such a mixture of people. And it not only helps with communication, it helps with just understanding culture, right? And we've got Ukrainians here now, we've got Hmong. I mean, it's this really diverse population that I think we need to consider like cultivating a little bit more. And, again, our town already really loves the people here who have done great things for our town who are immigrants. I mean, the famous streets in our town, if you can call them famous, I mean, the streets are named after famous immigrants in our town, right? So I think that is something that everybody should put forward and just realize that none of us came from here, right, except for Native Americans, Indigenous. And we should probably be respecting the fact that more people are gonna come.

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