Diggs To Focus On Immigrants Hidden In The Heartland
Posted: The Chautauquan Daily, July 22, 2015
By Deborah Trefts
Those who missed Week Three’s lectures and discussions on “Immigration: Origins and Destinations” and are keen to further explore this topic — including its relevance to Chautauqua County — will have an opportunity to do so this week.
As part of the Women’s Club’s “Chautauqua Speaks” series, Nancy Brown Diggs will give a talk with the same title as the sixth of her seven books, Hidden in the Heartland: The New Wave of Immigrants and the Challenge to America, at 9:15 a.m. Thursday at the Women’s Club House.
Diggs, who lives with her husband, Matt, in Dayton, Ohio, is a writer and lecturer who has been interested in people of diverse cultures throughout her life.
As she wrote in its preface, Hidden in the Heartland began with an unwanted summons to jury duty for a case involving two undocumented Latino brothers who had accused an Appalachian boy of assault and robbery. They spoke only Spanish and needed an interpreter in court. The jury found the youth guilty of assault, but not robbery.
The experience left Diggs with questions including, “Weren’t the brothers afraid to express their illegal status in a court of law?”
Diggs also wondered how many undocumented immigrants were living in her area; what living in hiding and being vulnerable to employment, housing and personal exploitation was like; what local governments and communities were doing to meet the challenge of Hispanic immigration; and what Mexico, where most of this hidden population originated, was doing about it.
She decided to find out.
Several of the individuals Digg’s interviewed for Hidden in the Heartland were in Ohio and Chautauqua County.
“I have looked more at the human picture of immigration,” she said. “Surprisingly, my biggest challenge wasn’t getting people to talk to me. I love doing the interviews and research. Everyone has a story. It’s hard on the families left behind in villages; they’re just empty. Among the youth in Ecuador and Mexico, there’s a high rate of suicides, teen pregnancy and alcoholism.”
Not only will Diggs share some of her stories from Hidden in the Heartland, but she will also open the floor to a discussion about citizenship and legal issues, including the executive actions on immigration that President Barack Obama announced on Nov. 20, 2014, and the temporary injunction issued by the federal court on Feb. 16.
Having grown up in Louisville, Kentucky, Diggs is currently writing a book she is calling Leaving Appalachia: The Other Great Migration. Diggs said she has been impressed with the closeness of the families, their non-confrontational attitudes and their strong sense of place. She is also concerned about discrimination against this invisible minority.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in French at Case Western Reserve University and translating French, Spanish and German for many years, Diggs earned a Master of Humanities from Wright State University and a doctorate in East Asian Studies from the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati.
A special interest in Japanese culture led to a number of homestays and some travel within Japan, and yielded three books: Looking Behind the Mask: When American Women Marry Japanese Men, Steel Butterflies: Japanese Women and the American Experience, and Meet the Japanese.
“The best part of writing books is getting all the information in there and molding it into something and getting my message out,” Diggs said. “I do it because I want to know and I’m curious. As a friend of mine said, ‘You’ll never grow old if you have that bump of curiosity.’ I’ve got that bump.”
AUTHOR LOOKS IN BACKYARD, AND FAR BEYOND
Posted: Dayton Daily News, 12:00 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015
By Sharon Short – Contributing Writer
“It seems to me that so many books focus on how one’s fate is sealed by the socio-economic role one is born into,” says author and Kettering resident Nancy Diggs. “But what I’ve learned from research, from interviewing subjects and writing about their stories is that our paths are not sealed by the circumstances we’re born into.”
Nancy’s books explore the impact of one’s culture on individual development and choices.
Most recently, “Breaking the Cycle: How Schools Can Overcome Urban Challenges,” focused on Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and the stories of the students, teachers and administrators; the book was published in 2013 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
“The underlying message of that book was ‘don’t write off inner city kids.’ With the right schools and grit, these kids can accomplish a lot, and that’s what we’re seeing already with DECA graduates,” Nancy says, “many of whom are now returning to the community to help make it even better.”
Two years before her book on DECA, Nancy’s book “Hidden in the Heartland: The New Wave of Immigrants and the Challenge to America” was published by Michigan State University Press.
Nancy is passionate about all of her projects, but perhaps most so about “Heartland.”
“Immigration is so very much in the news,” Nancy says, “So of all my books, this one seems to get the most attention. The book focuses on the lives of undocumented immigrants in our region — the human stories that the numbers don’t show. My goal is to be objective and neutral in my reporting on the issues, but I’m fascinated by the bravery that many of these immigrants show in navigating through life.”
Renowned sociologist and author Richard Alba provided a quote for the book cover: “This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand both sides of a vital national debate.”
Nancy grew up in Louisville and says she had a fascination with foreign languages “even as a young kid.” She majored in French, completing her bachelor’s at Case Western Reserve University. After her husband’s job brought both him and her to Dayton, she earned a Master of Humanities in Eastern Studies from Wright State University, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in the same subject from Union University.
Nancy loves to travel; in fact, she’s visited every continent, and spent several years living in France. Her theses for her Masters and Ph.D. programs focused on Japanese culture, in particular women and how they communicate with their husbands; both theses became the basis for two books.
Nancy also interviewed her 100-year-old neighbor and co-authored her biography.
“I love talking with people and listening to their stories,” Nancy says, “which is ironic because the hardest part for me of any project is to overcome my natural shyness and make that first contact. But once I do, I find that everyone is kind and helpful. While it’s important to respect the privacy of the people one is interviewing, I find everyone has a story, and most are eager to share it once you get to know them.”
For her next project, Nancy says, “I’m originally from central Kentucky, which is not part of Appalachia, but I’ve always been interested in Appalachian culture and the emphasis put on the family unit. Yet, over the years so many individuals have had to move away from their Appalachian roots for work. I’m interested in exploring how that affects both the individual and the family unit.”
GREAT DECISIONS 2007 MIGRATION
How does globalization affect immigration?
Editor’s note: Jeff Bourasa, a teacher at Fairmont High School, and his students came up with these questions about migration in today’s world. Published in the The Dayton Daily News, “Opinions”, April 25, 2007:
Nancy Brown Diggs, Ph.D., has published four books on international topics, as well as the forthcoming Hidden in the Heartland: The New Wave of Immigrants and the Challenge to America.
This week’s participants: Beavercreek High School students [Anu Menon, Ben Hoffman, Betty Bai, and Margaret Nevrekar] posed questions to Nancy Brown Diggs, who has published four books on international topics.
Migration in today’s world is closely tied to globalization, and immigration has become a controversial subject in many countries, not just the United States.
Q Recent immigration bills introduced in Congress have included controversial sections that will provide amnesty to some illegal immigrants. What effect does amnesty have on immigration, and why is it such a controversial issue?
A In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act granted amnesty to more than 3 million undocumented immigrants. This encouraged others to come to the U.S. illegally in the hope that they, too, would eventually be granted amnesty. Come they did.
This is why politicians who speak of immigration reform are careful to avoid the “A” word; they prefer the term “earned legalization.”
Q Why has the U.S. signed a free trade pact with Mexico when the U.S. does not want to integrate their labor markets?
A Virtually all economists believe that free trade increases the general prosperity of trading partners, but there are gainers and losers. Some groups and union leaders, in particular, blame free trade for taking away jobs from Americans.
The great number of immigrants now working here illegally do constitute an integration of labor to some extent.
Remedio Gomez Arnau, Mexico’s consul general for Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, insists that the United States needs them. She cites Labor Department statistics that indicate that by 2010, there will be 10 million jobs in the United States that can’t be filled by American citizens, due to our aging population.
The consul argues for granting more visas and establishing guest worker programs.
Many American leaders agree that we need immigrants. They add, though, that we need to know who and where they are. In 2005, almost one-fifth of the federal prison population were illegal immigrants, while some 270,000 illegal immigrants spent time in local jails and state prisons.
Congress is considering establishing a guest worker program, increasing legal immigration from Mexico and offering earned legalization to certain residents. Unlike the flawed bracero programs of the 1930s and 1940s, any program would have to include, among other things, provisions for health care plus “sticks” and “carrots” to ensure that workers return home.
Q How can our current policy on immigration be amended to maximize the benefits of global migration while minimizing the detriment to our own economy?
A Most economists concur that the present situation has not hurt, and has even helped, the economy as a whole, but may have harmed less-skilled workers (although they disagree on the extent).
But it’s not just a question of economics. Do we really want an underclass that is often mistreated, underpaid, ill-housed and placed at risk, afraid to complain for fear of deportation?
Americans are united by two things: the rule of law and the English language. It’s important that these pillars of our unity not be eroded.
That’s why government leaders must work toward legalization, as well as target employers who fail to abide by the law. Any program must also include a provision for acquiring English proficiency.
Q Is there a cause-and-effect relationship between a country’s tendencies for free trade or protectionist policies and the mass migration of highly skilled workers?
A If free trade helps the economies of all the trading partners, it should better enable highly skilled workers to stay in their home countries. In the case of Mexico, NAFTA has proven to be a disappointment, due to unexpected competition from China.
But the economic liberalization to which it is now committed may eventually help stop the brain drain—skilled professionals are also leaving Mexico—and prevent the exodus of the best and the brightest.
Kettering Vacationers Achieve ‘Bucket List’ Goal, Matt and Nancy Diggs Share Utah Travel Advice
By Nancy Brown Diggs, Contributing Writer
Published in the Dayton Daily News, April 27, 2007
Books like Patricia Schultz’s “1,000 Things to See Before You Die” or the movie “The Bucket List” urge us to see and do everything while we can.
It’s a message I’ve taken to heart. Usually it’s my husband, Matt, who plans our adventures, he who over 50 years ago promised to love, honor, and push me to do things I’m scared to do.
I’m the one who had always wanted to visit a slot canyon. I longed to leave my Kettering home and travel West to be a part of those luminous sculptures, where sunlight magically alters colors and contours. I wanted to bask in their radiance, I wanted to run my hand along the curving surfaces.
I discovered that there are more than 75 slot canyons in Utah alone, and Escalante is the best location for exploring them.
This remote town, population about 800, has few amenities. Take medical services, for example. When we were there, the clinic was staffed two days a week; those with serious injuries would have to be helicoptered out to St. George 180 miles away.
There’s not much selection when it comes to restaurants, either, but the ones they have are surprisingly good: Georgie’s Cafè for Mexican food, the Outfitters for pizza and sandwiches, and the Cowboy Blues Cafè, along with the Subway at the gas station. And it does boast the very comfortable Slot Canyons Bed and Breakfast.
At the inn, three of the guests were ladies of a certain age who described what they had discovered in their week’s stay, including archeological digs, the track used by Butch Cassidy, pictographs and dinosaur footprints.
Best of all, they raved about two wonderful canyons. If we were looking for slots, they enthused, we couldn’t go wrong with Spooky and Peek-a-Boo canyons.
Equipped with directions and a favorable weather report, we drove 26 miles on unpaved, washboard Hole-in-the-Rock road and up an even more rutted drive to the Dry Fork trailhead. It took scrambling over boulders, down slickrock cliffs and across talus slopes to find the entrance to Spooky, but it was just what I’d been seeking.
With the movement of sun and clouds, the walls seemed to undulate. As we walked between them, they became closer and closer together until we had to squeeze through an opening 10-inches wide. After climbing up sand-slick boulders, we came to an impasse: a high-walled hollow too wide to brace against for a foothold. A steep curved passage led up and sharply to the left, partially blocked by a large stone. Matt was able to climb up, but I couldn’t get a foothold, nor could I reach high enough for a grip on the slippery stone above. While he alternately pushed and pulled me, I begged to turn around.
But Matt thought if those ladies at the inn could do it, surely we could.
Somehow he wedged me halfway up, scrambled above, and then pulled me through the narrow opening. We slithered through more low passages and over chockstones, twisting up a narrow chute and over chest-high boulders. A 15-foot drop threatened on the other side of the rocks.
Some have risen to great heights on the shoulders of others. I was happy to rise just a few feet on Matt’s, as he knelt, placed my left foot on his shoulder, then stood while I searched for a foot- or knee-hold for one last push to the top—and out.
If Spooky was a light show, Peek-a-Boo is a playground designed by Henry Moore. We crossed through a moon gate, under a natural bridge and, kid-like, zoomed down sandy stone slides.
I learned to let go and trust my body: When we came to a deep crevice, I leaned forward and dropped my hands to the other side in order to scoot along on hands and rear. There were more hollows to negotiate, some with walls at shoulder height, and more arches. Walking under them was like traversing the rib cage of a giant whale.
Then with one last pull up we were on a kind of balcony before we had to descend an almost sheer 15-foot cliff—the final challenge.
To get down entailed passing a shallow recess to reach faint indentations that served as foot- and hand-holds leading down to a narrow shelf, then descending to a piled stack of stones about three feet high. Matt went first, positioned me as a bridge in the recess with my back against one side, my feet on the other, ordered, “Don’t move!” and went below me.
After a muscle-quivering eternity, when I was sure I could no longer hold that position and would send us both crashing down, he returned to help me move hands and feet one at a time to the shelf.
As he reached the pile of stones, they shifted, causing him to tumble, but he was able to catch me as I slid down.
As we rested, I reread the directions to the canyons. To my surprise, there were more on the other side of the page.
For Spooky and Peek-a-Boo, I read, “basic canyoneering skills are required.” Spooky is also home to the highly toxic midget faded rattlesnake.
Back at the inn, we ran into the ladies again.
“Wow!” we said. “We’re really impressed that you did Spooky and Peek-a-Boo. Did you find it as hard as we did?”
“Oh, we didn’t go into the canyons,” they replied. “We just heard about them. We decided they were way too hard for us!”
Next time we’ll get a guide.
Helping in Haiti: Extreme Poverty Hinders Recovery
By Nancy Brown Diggs
This article appeared in the April 2011 issue of “Interchange”
I thought I’d see poverty before. After all, I’d volunteered in Ecuador and rural Romania, visited Russia with the Miami Valley Episcopal Russian Network, and seen many other impoverished areas of the world, including our own inner cities. Nothing prepared me, however, for the vast misery In post-earthquake Haiti.
Trash lines the street, shacks are cobbled together with pieces of tin or whatever material is available, and miles of crowded and hot tent cities house whole families in miniscule spaces. Our comfortable rooms at a guest house, while shabby, seemed luxurious by comparison.
With its average life expectancy of 52 years, annual income of around $400 and 50% unemployment, Haiti’s abject poverty translates into little or no medical facilities, let alone dental care. South Carolina based CHAP—the Christian Haitian American Partnership—seeks to remedy this. Under the leadership of Dr. Jeanne Fourrier, a periodontist from South Carolina, our group of twelve from Arizona, Arkansas, and Ohio, as well as South Carolina, included three dentists, a pharmacist, a nurse, and an optometrist. Anglican bishop Thomas Johnston (“T.J.”) from South Carolina contributed his experience gained from many sojourns in the country.
The Reverend Fritz Valpena (“Père Val”) and his wife Carmel of St. Simeon’s Church in Croix des Bouquets represent the Haitian half of the partnership. They were responsible for the mobile clinic arrangements, where church members assisted and served as interpreters. Between them they have established six schools, a clinic and six nutrition centers.
While two people painted children’s teeth with fluoride, others assisted the dentists. I was assigned to help Dr. Jerd Poston, the optometrist. It was an amazing experience to see churches and schoolrooms transformed quickly into treatment centers equipped with portable dentists’ chairs, tables arrayed with numerous dental instruments, and a sterilizing system as each patient was moved in assembly-line fashion. With special “lollipops” in their mouths to deaden gums for lidocaine injections, patients held Frisbees containing a paper cup, cotton, and the instruments required for their treatment. For the most part, the dentists could only do extractions, although if a cavity was small they would coat it with fluoride varnish. They alleviated an unimaginable amount of pain, including that of a teenager whose abscess was so bad that it was oozing through his cheek.
I was assigned to help Dr. Jerd Poston, the optometrist. He quickly assembled his darkened room for examining patients, a procedure he had down pat on this, his 13th mission trip. My task was to choose a pair of glasses according to Jerd’s prescription from among the 100 or so plastic bags of 10 or 15 glasses each, sorted by prescription numbers. It could be a time-consuming task since women, especially, wanted just the right flattering frame. T.J. explained that Haiti is a country where people have few choices in their lives, so when they do have an opportunity to choose, they take advantage of it. There were times when I felt I was living the candy factory episode in the I Love Lucy show, as prescriptions accumulated and I mixed up the bags in my hurry.
We had been reminded that we would not be able to help everyone, like the elderly cataract patients that Jerd examined. Rather than dwell on those for whom we could do nothing, we were told, we should focus on the 80% whom we could help. And help we did. The dentists performed 225 surgeries (including a full-mouth extraction), some 800 children received fluoride treatments, and the eye clinic treated 207 people, adding up to more than 1200 who received some sort of care.
Still it was heartbreaking to see the 8-year-old boy who was blinded a year ago when an illness left his eyes swollen and splotched with yellow, possibly from a parasite. Or the five-month-old baby with congenital cataracts. Can they be helped? I’m hoping that, with the help of God and the appropriate organization, they can be brought to the United States for treatment. Any information on this would be greatly appreciated.
To learn more visit CHAP, contact CHAPhaiti.org. or contact Steve Hayden at email@example.com. Donations can be sent to CHAP, c/o Mary White, 940 Hagley Drive, Pawleys Island, SC 29576, where information is also available.
Author Analyzes Ilegal Immigration in US
By Adele Koehnen, Contributing Writer
August 8, 2012 by The Chautauquan Daily
Nancy Diggs was on jury duty for a case involving the equal rights of two Costa Rican immigrants, not United States citizens. An interesting experience for any juror, but for writer Diggs it became the theme for a book.
“I wanted to learn more about today’s problem with unscrupulous employers who hire immigrant workers with no recourse to defend themselves against little wages and deplorable conditions. It’s illegal and unfair to companies trying to honestly compete, plus being unfair to American workers,” she said.
The book is titled Hidden in the Heartland; The New Wave of Immigrants and the Challenge to America. It puts a human face on the cold statistics of the 12 million illegal people in our country’s population.
Diggs stresses how the subject of immigration has become a major human rights issue and a threat to the unity of the nation.
With a master’s in humanities and a doctorate in Asian studies from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Diggs has traveled the world, lived in France; volunteered in Ecuador, Romania and Haiti; and camped in the Mexican desert to personally know the rugged terrain that many immigrants cross. She is fluent in Spanish, French and German.
Diggs has authored many books including Steel Butterflies: Japanese Women and the American Experience; Looking Beyond the Mask: When American Women Marry Japanese Men; The Women of Northern Ireland and coauthored My Century with Dayton educator Evangeline Lindsey, who lived to be 105.
Diggs lives with her husband, Matt, in Kettering.
Hidden in the Heartland; The New Wave of Immigrants and the Challenge to America may be purchased at Books & Co. at The Greene and Town & Country locations.
Undocumented Immigrants Pose Challenges, Bring Narratives to America
By Joanna Hamer, Staff Writer
August 8, 2012 by The Chautauquan Daily
Nancy Brown Diggs is always amazed at how willing people are to tell their stories. An author and co-author of six books, Diggs was particularly surprised by the forthrightness of those she interviewed for her latest book, Hidden in the Heartland: The New Wave of Immigrants and the Challenge to America.
Diggs will present her most recent book at 2:30 p.m. today in the Smith Memorial Library Meeting Room, reading excerpts, giving updates on the situation and participating in a discussion. Her presentation title is “Hidden in the Heartland: A Conversation about Immigration Experiences, Policy and Reform in America.”
She first confronted the topic of undocumented immigrants face to face when she was chosen for jury duty in a case involving two undocumented Costa Rican brothers accusing an Appalachian man of theft.
“I was really surprised to see these people assert their rights in court,” she said, despite their fear of their illegal status being discovered. “We had a lot of questions for the judge, and I had never really thought about that. So I thought, well, my Spanish is pretty good, I’ll look into that.”
Diggs interviewed a wide range of people, including chambermaids in North Carolina, an episcopal priest in Chautauqua County and the Mexican consul in Atlanta. Everyone she spoke to, in Spanish or English, was eager to tell their story of migration or to give their opinion on the issues facing America and its immigrants.
“The big problem for American citizens is the schools, and health services and the social services,” Diggs said.
Taxes immigrants pay go to the federal government, while local and state coffers have to cover those expenses.
For the immigrants, the challenges are different but equally dangerous. First they must cross the United States-Mexican border, an area Diggs discovered to be one of the least hospitable in the U.S., when she camped out there for a week during research. Once in the U.S., immigrants face discrimination, workplace abuse and issues that arise from not speaking English.
Hidden in the Heartland narrates all sides of the complicated story of undocumented American immigrants, a point of view Diggs found at once challenging and natural.
“I didn’t have a dog in that fight, as they say in Kentucky, so I could be pretty impartial,” she said. “When you meet individuals, of course you feel for them. But on the other hand, I’ve met school administrators and talked to hospital officials, and they bear a heavy burden.”
Diggs did find that Americans and immigrants agree on the need to alter immigration legislation and better deal with those already in the country.
“We have to do something, and nobody’s going to be completely happy about it, and it will be expensive,” she said. “But there are two things that unite us as Americans. One is the English language, and the other is rule of law, and I don’t think we can have a situation where that rule of law is being eroded, so we’ll have to change the laws.”
In her book, Diggs also considers the situation in a historical context, comparing it to previous waves of immigration.
“It’s similar in a lot of ways: Nobody wants the newcomers to come,” she said.
Diggs’ new book, while different in topic from her others, continues her interest in exploring other cultures through conversation and research. She has previously written about Japanese culture and the interactions between Japanese and American men and women, particularly in marriage.
“My husband and I grew up just a few miles apart, with very similar backgrounds, and we don’t always communicate,” she said.
Diggs hopes people will come to her presentation with opinions about undocumented immigrants and immigration law from all different geographic regions, and with questions about current developments.
She also hopes that among the crowd there will be lawyers with knowledge about immigration legislation and viewpoints on how the laws should proceed.
“The legal section was very difficult to write, because every state, every community, seems to have a different way of managing the issue,” Diggs said.
She will also give a talk with further updates next season at the Men’s Club about Hidden in the Heartland. She is currently working on another book based on interviews with children at a charter school in the inner city of Dayton, Ohio.
“I’ve interviewed a number of young people there, and they have terrible stories, yet they do wonderful things,” she said. “People tell me all about their backgrounds and drug problems in their families and communities, and it is a different culture.”
Diggs gains so many insights in her dialogues and writing that she wants her readers to learn along with her, and the experience of writing Hidden in the Heartland was no different.
“There were a series of surprises, and then a whole lot of ‘Yes, but,’ because nobody is completely right or wrong,” she said. “Everybody has right on their side, but we have to come together somehow.”
Listen to the Interview