On December 12 2011, fliers were distributed in Port Sheldon residential mailboxes which were racially inflammatory and perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes about Hispanics. The fliers were designed to rally residents against proposed migrant housing to be discussed at an upcoming planning commission meeting and alleged “families with children, single women and elderly” would be in jeopardy if the housing were approved. An accompanying bullet list alleged migrant workers “will more than likely not be U.S. citizens,” and will be “untraceable” by authorities if there are problems. view fliers...
The next day on December 13, the Diversity Alliance received a call from area homeowner and racial justice advocate, Kathy O'Brien. Later she expressed, When I received the flyer, I was relieved to know there was a place I could call--and know that the Diversity Alliance would address the issue." The Diversity Alliance quickly began disseminating information and encouraging community members, area organizations, and media to attend the planning commission meeting.
A statement provided by Gail Harrison, Executive Director of the Diversity Alliance, included: "This type of fear mongering is detrimental to communities. It cultivates an overall community environment that is hostile to people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, especially those of Latino heritage. If you want to argue the legalities of the special use permit, then argue that. But don't paint our migrant farm workers as criminals who are going to threaten the safety of our children."
On December 14, representatives of the Diversity Alliance, area partner organizations, and many concerned residents attended the meeting, totaling more than fifty people. Direct quotes and video footage of the meeting can be found in the press coverage links to the right. A vote was not taken; discussion will resume at the February 01, 2012 planning commission meeting. The Diversity Alliance continues to monitor this process and provide updates as information becomes available.
On July 18, 2012, Port Sheldon Township approved a new ordinance outlining several new requirements including a stipulation regarding the “size and character” of the dwelling be generally compatible with existing residential areas.
On August 22, the Diversity Alliance voiced concerns with the new ordinance regarding use of subjective wording that could be open to interpretation and potential bias."There are sections of the ordinance that jump out as detrimental to the ability of local farmers to attract and employ migrant workers. As a region, agriculture is an important part of our economy and putting limitations that restrict farming could be very detrimental,” Gail Harrison, Executive Director of the Diversity Alliance stated.
12/14/11 Holland Sentinel Article
12/14/11 Grand Rapids Press Article
12/14/11 Fox 17 Coverage
12/15/11 Holland Sentinel Article
12/15/11 Grand Rapids Press Article
12/16/11 El Vorceo Hispano Article
08/20/12 Holland Sentinel Article
08/22/12 Holland Sentinel Article
08/22/12 Grand Rapids Press Article