In their own words: Sister Ruth Snyderby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
Sister Ruth Snyder talks about some residents' fear of change in Austin and her work with the Hispanic Ministries at Queen of Angels Catholic Church.
SISTER RUTH SNYDER: There's a strong anti-immigration feeling among many people. I remember once there was an article about me in the paper, and someone wrote me an anonymous letter and said 'Sister Ruth, you don't know what it's like in Austin. You don't know the crime. You don't know how afraid we are. You don't know how this has changed our city.'
But there is an anti-immigration feeling, but there are many, many supporters, too, of the Hispanics and the others that are here, too.
A woman recently came up to me and said 'I heard you say that the crime is no greater in Austin than it was. You don't read the paper.'
I read the paper.
Another person who had told me that, and I quote the former police chief on that, when he says there is no more crime than before, and he said if all the Hispanics would leave the crime rate would probably go up if the population stayed the same.
But this woman came up to me and said 'You don't know' because she said, 'just read the paper, those names are there.' When one other person told that to me, because that is one of the feelings, I said, 'Keep track of the names. And I did for a time.' It's just that when a Hispanic names shows up, it jumps out at them.
Look at the sex offenders. The sex offenders are by and large, not Hispanic. I think there's that fear that the crime is there. They fight and they see they've been up for court for something.
I don't think the larger percent of the drug arrests are Hispanics. There are some and when there is one, that name jumps out.
One person told me they would be afraid to walk over by the athletic field in the evening or at night because they'd be afraid to do so. It seems ridiculous to me, but there is that fear.
I know now people come because they know someone who has worked here and they've said there's work. I know people now who have left because they can't get work in Austin. But usually it's some family member who's working here and so other family members come here.
They tend, I think, to come by towns. So we have a number from Oaxaca. Wherein Worthington, they might be from Honduras or places. But peple who know somebody is the reason they come now.
The elderly population, I don't think they realize they need these younger families. and I don't like to hear 'They do the work that we won't do.'
When one mother said, my children are not going to work at QPP, as if that was something inferior. My family were farmers, hard workers, I don't like to see a put down on people. That's something beneath anybody. But it's true. The number of people who are willing to do that kind of work just is not very large and the immigrants are willing to do it.
It's an emotional thing, not an intellectual thing. So you can put out all the reasons, it's like the myths of immigrations-- they don't pay taxes, they get benefits, all the myths that are out there. You can put the facts down, but it doesn't change the emotions quickly at least.
At one anti-immigration meeting, it was one at which a minuteman was here. The mayor said something about if, there weren't immigrants your taxes would go up. But he was booed. And people got up and walked out.
They think you can return to the old Austin, some of them do. It's hard to deal with emotions and feelings. You can do some with education but it doesn't always reach. I feel like I can be somewhat of a bridge because I'm a native Austinite.
I've lived in both communities but I'm very much connected with the Hispanic community, so I think people sometimes will listen to me that might not listen to somebody else. But not always.