If the American message has been a little messy lately, what with debate over border walls and travel bans, at least some families wanted to make their feelings clear when they huddled in a library conference room on Saturday.
Bienvenidos. Ahlaan bik. Welcome.
In pen and crayon, held by wrinkled hands and tiny fingers, the adults and kids scratched out messages of open arms to the tired, poor and huddled masses.
“Lately, we’ve been something we weren’t in the past, or maybe becoming something we were in the past when we weren’t as welcoming to immigrants and refugees as I think we should be,” said Caitlin Fudge, who came to the Kansas City Public Library’s central location to fill out friendly notes to the country’s newcomers.
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The library began organizing its #toimmigrantswithlove event — after the election, but before President Donald Trump issued a travel ban on refugees and immigrants from select countries that reintroduced the nation to thorny issues about letting outsiders in.
But as the day approached, more and more people wanted to get involved, said Hannah Johnson, an Americorps worker at the library.
“Maybe,” she said, “some of the political climate had something to do with that.”
Within the first hour, adults and their children had filled out postcards — pre-printed “to immigrants … with love” — that stacked higher than a pair of telephone books
Julie Robinson, who runs immigrant and refugee services at the library, said people were lined up outside the door to get in on the card writing before doors opened mid-morning Saturday.
“You can sense people want to make each other feel welcome,” she said.
The cards were written in a range of languages and handed off to Jewish Vocational Services, which ushers immigrant and refugee families into their new, American lives. The agency, in turn, plans to give the personalized greetings to newly arrived families.
Eight-year-old Alexa Ceron Madrigal drew the state of Kansas — she knows the shape as a rectangle with a cookie bite out of the upper right corner — in rainbow colors. Her mother, Jackie Madrigal, teaches students from around the world enrolled in Shawnee Mission schools.
“I’ve worked with immigrant every day of my career,” she said. “My daughter’s met my students and she knows that we want to be the ones welcoming them here.
“Right?” she asks, turning to Alexa. “We want them to have happy lives. They want to work. They want to make the country better. Right?”
Alexa, mute but listening, nodded enthusiastically.