Latinos in the Heartland: Latinos and Immigrants in Midwestern Communities: Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Conference Columbia, Missouri, May 24-26 2010
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When the ninth annual Cambio de Colores conference convened in Columbia, Missouri, in May 24-26, 2010, it did so as a fully-fledged regional effort, as each and every state in the Heartland is experiencing the demographic and socioeconomic changes that bring many Latino individuals and families to work in jobs made available by the aging of the Midwestern population, outmigration, and the declining numbers of native young people. At the same time, a cloud of uncertainty covered -and still covers now, in 2011- the legal framework that may allow a better process of incorporation of Latino and other immigrants into our Midwestern communities. Notwithstanding -or perhaps as a consequence of these difficulties- many individuals and institutions are increasing their efforts to develop knowledge and practices to better understand and carry out the integration of newcomers into their new settlements. At the time of the first conference, back in 2002, it was decided to bring together stakeholders of different walks of life working with immigrants, doing research about immigrants, understanding the needs of the receiving communities that included now significant numbers of immigrants, understanding the needs of the receiving communities that included now significant numbers of immigrants. This vertical cross-section of participants in Cambio de Colores has persisted, making it a unique meeting that encourages the exchange of research, best practices, positive and negative experiences of a combination of outstanding community volunteers, university researchers, grade school teachers, health providers, civil rights advocates, immigrants, federal, state, and local government officers, and even the occasional anti-immigrant curious observer. More than an "immigration" conference, the Cambio de Colores meeting is a venue where more and more stakeholders talk about immigrants and people, families and communities, economics and culture: all the elements to be taken into account to develop lasting integration and healthy communities. The climate towards immigrants, we all know it, has turned more and more polarized. People are "angry" -they say- in all sides of the issues. Invectives and insults fly every which way, with only occasional attention -at least in the media- placed on facts, data, dreams, laws -and, of course, the lack thereof, as there is always much to be known. Thus, this conference has always been, and it will continue to be, a place where facts are reported, data are shown, laws are analyzed, best practices are shared, with the goal of helping the development of inclusive communities, especially for the sake of the younger generations. We need knowledge, lots of it: solid knowledge that we can share with all.