National campaign to welcome immigrants sees immediate success at a local level

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An employee with the Multicultural Coalition holds up some postcards in front of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security building. (Photo courtesy Multicultural Coalition/Facebook)
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By Kassidy Arena, Nebraska Public Media News

When Raúl Arcos Hawkins moved to Columbus a couple years ago, his neighbor brought him a handwritten note along with a homemade pie to welcome him to the neighborhood. That moment still resonates with him today and changed his perspective as an immigrant.

That’s why Arcos Hawkins decided to share this feeling with the rest of the state by formally bringing a national positive message campaign to immigrants in Nebraska. The campaign, To Immigrants With Love, started as a way to serve frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and has since grown to support all immigrants across the country.

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Arcos Hawkins used his role as executive director of the Multicultural Coalition in Grand Island to intentionally spread those messages to immigrants in Nebraska. He said the campaign especially resonated with him now due to the negative rhetoric surrounding immigration at the U.S. southern border.

“This small token of giving somebody a postcard meant that, you know, somebody cared and took the time to write a message, an encouraging message to a person who may have left everything behind and doesn’t know a community that they’re moving into,” he said.

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He started out by reaching out to other community organizations in Scottsbluff, Columbus and around Grand Island. He found a sponsor in SOMOSgi, a community group in Grand Island, who paid for all the postcards for the Multicultural Coalition to send out to partners. Then, the message campaign began.

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Volunteers wrote the positive messages by hand. Some of the postcards were written to immigrants from immigrants with special messages reminding new Nebraskans they have a support system. (Photo courtesy Empowering Families/Facebook)

The postcards reached organizations including Empowering Families of Scottsbuff, Unity in Action of South Sioux City and Centro Hispano Comunitario de Nebraska in Columbus, as well as individuals throughout the state. One of the Multicultural Coalition’s employees handed the positive notes to people in the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Omaha.

“She said that their reaction was heartwarming. And she said, ‘I had to turn around and wipe tears from my face because of how one little postcard meant so much to them,” Arcos Hawkins said. “And that’s what we wanted, is for them to feel that warmth and welcoming reception as Nebraskans that we are, you know? Show them that Nebraska nice that, you know, we claim to abide by here.”

The campaign quickly ran out of postcards shortly after it started. More than 1,000 immigrants in Nebraska received one. Arcos Hawkins said he will have to start planning for next year’s campaign in December, since they ran out of postcards quicker than he expected.

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The postcards were written by volunteers in several languages including English, Spanish, Arabic and Somali. The Multicultural Coalition plans to order more postcards next year and expand into more areas of the state.

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