by David and Gail Boesel
In a recent meeting for Latino outreach at the Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic Church in Laurel, Anne Arundel County Councilman Andrew Pruski, District 4, told Latino residents that in the context of county and state services, “Whether documented or undocumented, you are a human being” and deserve good service by public institutions.
After a mass, the bishop greeted the parishioners and lunch was served. Dave Helmecki, legislative assistant for Pruski said that he and Pruski were of Polish origin, and that the surrounding area had once been predominantly Polish. Over the decades, Polish families had gradually moved out and been replaced by Latinos.
A table at the entrance was filled with pamphlets and fliers about county services for immigrant and minority communities. Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, representing Prince Georges and Anne Arundel Counties, was there, as were Julie Hummer, Vice President of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, and Roni LaRoque, CASA’s community organizer for the area. About sixty Latino residents – somewhat older than the congregation as a whole, stayed for the meeting.
After a priest opened the meeting, Pruski told the group that he and others were there to “build bridges, not walls,” to listen to the Latino community, and to help wherever possible. Then he solicited questions, which were asked in both English and Spanish. Pena-Melnyk and LaRoque translated, whenever necessary.
The questions were mostly about the nuts and bolts of county government, especially the schools. One man said that a crossing guard was needed at a dangerous intersection near Monarch Academy, a public charter school in Glen Burnie. A woman complained about bullying at school, and Hummer told her about school resource officers; how to report a bullying incident; and how to get in touch with her, if needed.
There was a question about medical services, and Pena-Melnyk replied that there was a list of 252 free or low-cost community clinics in Maryland, including some in Anne Arundel and Prince Georges Counties.
A Latino department of education employee asked a question in Spanish having to do with immigrant legal status and documentation. Pena-Melnyk picked up a flier from the information table entitled Conozca sus derechos! (Know your rights!), read from it point by point, and urged everyone to pick up a copy, read it, and understand it.
Dave Boesel asked Councilman Pruski to comment on a recent Anne Arundel County resolution introduced by Councilman Peroutka from Severna Park urging the state legislature to reject the proposed Trust Act, which was designed to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. Pruski replied that he had voted against the amendment, but that he was in the minority and that it had passed. Boesel then asked Pena-Melnyk if the Trust Act would be re-introduced in the legislature next year. “I hope so,” she replied.
David and Gail Boesel are long-time activists from Anne Arundel County.
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