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Immigration discussion comes to UW-Marathon County

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) - A group of community leaders met in Wausau yesterday to talk about immigration reform and how it affects central and northern Wisconsin.

The forum was organized by the Bibles, Badges and Businesses group, with representatives from the evangelical, industry and public safety sectors. Among those speaking at the event at UW-Marathon County yesterday were Oconto dairy farmer Tim O’Harrow Wisconsin Restaurant association president Ed Lump, and John Huebscher of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. Sheriff Scott Parks also appeared to talk about how immigration is affecting the county.

Organizer Angela Adams says one of the primary concerns for the group is fixing student visas. "People who come here to go to school can't stay and so we, by the nature of the system, force them out. And therefore we can't keep the high qualified people that just went through our education system and that we trained."

The group is hoping to push debate on the immigration reform that's passed the Senate and stalled in the House. Adams says the central Wisconsin area needs to talk about the issues. "We want to encourage them to continue these conversations, to gather information, and to raise the voices of the constituents that vote for them." They're aiming directly for Congressman Sean Duffy, who hasn't taken a definitive stance one way or the other on the reform bill.

Adams says the central Wisconsin area can't hide from the issue of how to handle immigration. "Here you've got a nice combination of agriculture, and you've got areas that have experienced growth in immigration and are struggling over what to do with that growth." The county's dairy industry has seen a rapid expansion in the number of Hispanic workers that help operate farms, especially those with more than 300 head of cattle.

Bibles, Badges and Businesses is affiliated with the National Immigration Forum.

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