Washington Post article sparks campaign to help immigrant children of Worthington

The article described tensions among locals about the city's recent influx of immigrants.
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Worthington's main street in 2007.

Worthington's main street in 2007.

A Washington Post article highlighting the discontentment felt by some locals in Worthington following the recent increase in the immigrant population has sparked a campaign to help immigrant children in the southern Minnesota city.

Kate O'Reilly, a content strategy business owner in Minneapolis, launched "The Worthington Project" this week, after reading the article in Sunday's Washington Post titled: "Immigrant kids fill this town's schools. Their bus driver is leading the backlash."

You can read the full story here, but the story focuses on the reaction of longtime Worthington residents who have seen an influx of immigrants in recent years, boosting the city's population at a time when surrounding areas are declining.

But it has brought with it increasing tensions among longtime residents unhappy with the changes they're seeing in their town.

Among those interviewed was 71-year-old Don Brink, a school bus driver who among other things said he wished there would be "another ICE raid ... to get rid of the illegals."

"That’s why we have all these food pantries, because of all these people we are supporting. I have to feed my own kids," he added.

The plight of unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children in the city has inspired the aid campaign from O'Reilly, who has raised more than $4,000 in the space of a few days to help.

She has connected with a group of English-as-a-second-language teachers, the Church of. St. Mary community, and the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, who she hopes will connect her to families in need in the city.

"When I read this story in The Washington Post this morning about Worthington, MN, I knew I had to act," wrote O'Reilly, herself a mother-of-two.

"While I do not know the beneficiaries personally yet, I hope to know them. I simply can't bear to imagine a child anywhere waking up or going to bed hungry. I can't imagine them boarding a bus driven by a man who wishes for ICE raids on them.

"I can't imagine the trauma they've already been through to get here to safety and then not have it be safe. I don't know how this happened, but I know that I have to do something."

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As the article notes, Worthington has received "more unaccompanied minors per capita than almost anywhere in the country," per federal data, many of them having crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the same time, efforts to expand the schools to accommodate the children have been rejected five times by voters, with the article noting the city's tax base is still heavily reliant on the area's farmers, who have been among the "driving forces" behind efforts against local tax hikes.

The money raised by O'Reilly will be used to buy food, clothing, comfort items and needed supplies for the unaccompanied children, who she notes most of whom are living with distant relatives "and are awaiting immigration hearings."

She is seeking to connect with the families so she actually gets the supply they need, noting there is a "deeply rooted history of white folks like me wanting to help communities they aren't a part of."

"This can result in white folks showing up with what they think the community needs without first connecting to that community, asking what is needed, and asking if help is welcome."

You can find out more about The Worthington Project here.

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