A local candidate for state house held an educational forum with four experts on immigration.

Colleen Turk is the democratic candidate for the Michigan House of Representative’s 47th District seat. She is running against Republican incumbent Hank Vaupel. Thursday evening, Turk held an educational forum titled “Immigration: Policy and Experience” for roughly 30 attendees at the Howell Carnegie Library. Turk shared with the crowd her opinion on the importance of having these types of conversations. She asked, “How many opportunities do we in the Howell area have to talk to people who have recently immigrated to the U.S.? How often do we go to Dearborn and talk to our neighbors there? Probably not as often as we should. So I’d like, as a Michigander, to find ways to break down those boundaries so we’re not so polarized and so isolated.”

A panel of immigration experts took curated questions on the topic, before the floor was opened up to any in the public wishing to ask their own or give a statement. The panel included former Director of the Detroit Office of Immigrant Affairs, Fayrouz Saad; Seydi Sarr, founder and Executive Director of ABISA; and immigration attorneys Russell Abrutyn and Reginal Pacis. The foursome shared their own stories and backgrounds before answering questions on immigration policy. They discussed topics like the obstacles immigrants face gaining permanent residency in the U.S., if having a child or getting married can grant lawful status (not necessarily), and how to make sure that people who mean to do harm aren’t allowed over the border.

Turk said that this forum is the type of gathering she’d like to host as Representative, as she feels it’s important for leaders to be continuously educating citizens, even if the topic is controversial. She said this is the kind of thing she hopes to do as State Representative, but even if not elected will still probably do them. She has previously hosted similar events through Citizens for Unity, including a non-partisan diversity and tolerance gathering following last year’s riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.(MK)