Speakers include Bahige, Pritchett, Reeder.
Speakers include Bertine Bahige, Suzan Pritchett and Rep. Tom Reeder.

POWELL, Wyo. — The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, in partnership with Wyoming PBS and the Wyoming Humanities Council, and in collaboration with Northwest College, will explore immigration and refugee policy in the state during a special program on Thursday, March 24.

The program is being broadcast live from the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center.

The panel discussion will be aired on WPBS Wyoming Perspectives at 7 p.m. The hour-long program will also be available via a live streaming link. The public is being asked to participate by submitting questions to the panel, which will be taken beforehand via email (immigration@wyomingpbs.org), or live during the program via phone (800-495-9788). The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center will be closed during that time, to accommodate the broadcast.

Heart Mountain is an ideal location for this important conversation. As the site of a former “war relocation center,” it stands as a testament to the nation’s historical reactions to war, immigration, and fear. It is at Heart Mountain where racism, hysteria and a failure of political leadership led to the creation of a confinement camp incarcerating more than 14,000 Japanese Americans.

“Our country was founded by immigrants, and built on the backs of immigrants — many of whom arrived here fleeing persecution, war and instability in their home countries,” said Heart Mountain Executive Director Brian Liesinger. “It is important to have these discussions about what Wyoming’s role may be in contributing to the continuance of this foundational element of our nation. It is a difficult issue, complicated by political rhetoric and misinformation, and I commend the Wyoming Humanities Council for tackling it.”

The Wyoming Humanities Council has assembled a panel of highly qualified Wyomingites to discuss this topic. They include:

• Bertine Bahige, a Teacher of the Year in Gillette who is a refugee himself. He was a Congolese child soldier and spent five years living in a refugee camp prior to settling in Wyoming.

• Suzan Pritchett, a law professor at the University of Wyoming and co-director of UW’s Center for International Human Rights Law and Advocacy.

• Rep. Tom Reeder of Natrona County, who serves in the Wyoming House of Representatives. He was co-sponsor of the 2016 House Bill 47, which would have provided legislative authority over approval of a refugee resettlement plan in Wyoming, and would have provided for public hearings on that plan.

The Wyoming Humanities Council remains committed to hosting thoughtful and meaningful conversations about refugee resettlement in Wyoming. It does not advocate or presume any stance on the issue. As stated in the National Endowment for the Humanities Act: “The humanities are the basis of an educated democracy and well-founded democracy.”

“I see these events by the Wyoming Humanities Council as an extension of Heart Mountain’s efforts to counter divisiveness in our country and irrational fear of the other,” said Liesinger. “These conversations, with engagement from the public, will help us all develop, not only a greater sense of 21st-century cultural literacy, but what I hope is also a better understanding of the greatness we can continue to achieve by being a diverse and inclusive nation.”

More information about the live broadcast and how the public can participate in the discussion can be found at www.wyomingpbs.org/immigration.

The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center is located between Cody and Powell on Highway 14A. It is open in the winter Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, members and children under 12 are free. For more information, call (307) 754-8000 or visit www.HeartMountain.org.

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