Frances E Reuland

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Interview Text and Audio


Frances Reuland describes her community in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the changes she has seen due to the migration of different groups of people. She describes various experiences throughout her childhood and high school career that helped her notice the migrant communities within her town as well as how her town has changed as a response to these groups. As a student, she reflects on her experiences within the school and the way the school responded to the changes in the student body. She talks about people within her life that sparked her interest for immigration issues and that also helped her better understand their challenges. Frances mentions some of the differences she perceives from her community to those of migrant communities as she has grown to become more familiar with their experiences. She mentions ways in which she hopes the perception of immigration issues by non-immigrants will change and shared how her current views have expanded as a college student.



Vianey: Okay so I am here today at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on February 26th, 2016 doing an interview. If you could just state your full name and also whether you consent of me recording this interview.

Frances: My name is Frances Emily Reuland and yes you have my consent.

V: If you could tell me a little bit about where you're from and how long you've been living there.

F: I was born in Chinle, Arizona, and Chinle is just a small town in Arizona. I lived there until I was two and then moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I have been here ever since then and I am now nineteen years old, I have been here for sixteen years. I have moved within Chapel Hill three different times so I have lived in different parts of the town.

V: Where do you consider home, is it Chapel Hill?

F: Chapel Hill for sure.

V: How would you describe your community or the area where you live?

F: I, since coming to college I have realized that my community, well one that it is definitely defined by the fact that the university is here. It is definitely a college town and that plays a big role on what type of community it is. As a whole I would describe Chapel Hill as a bubble in the sense that compared to the rest of North Carolina it is very different in terms of political views and that kind of thing. It tends to be, going along with the fact that the university is here, it is pretty liberal and people are well educated and more left leaning in politics. Overall, I would consider it a pretty welcoming and progressive area. I know we have people that have come in from all over the world and are living here.

V: The next question is thinking more about your childhood, so think about your childhood and your experiences more within the school system. Do you feel like you had the opportunity to interact with children of different backgrounds? If so, in what ways?

F: Yes, growing up, given the places that I lived in my neighborhoods the children were pretty similar to me in terms of socioeconomic status and predominately White neighborhoods. There were some Asian families. At school I did feel like they had more exposure of people of different backgrounds because I went to public schools my whole life. One of my best friends actually in middle school, she is an immigrant from Mexico so I kind of felt that I had a connection to her community. She lived in an area that was predominantly Mexican immigrants so sometimes when I would go hang out with her it was weird to think that there was so much separation within the Chapel Hill community. I do not know, that was part of what I remember from growing up.

V: I think that is really interesting. When do you feel that you, you perceived the separation? I think often when we are little, we do not really realize those things, or maybe you did I do not know. So when you feel like you said like "oh wait!"?

F: I definitely did not realize it when I was really little. It never occurred to me why people of different ethnic or race, racial backgrounds would be separated within the community or why some people live in certain types of houses or closer to the stores or schools. But I think maybe probably in middle school into high school I started to realize the, I do not know what the proper word for it is, but kind of the districting or the, I think it's called zoning maybe, of the different areas and there within chapel hill, even though I had felt like it was a pretty diverse area there are definitely racial separations. There is communities that are predominantly black, there is communities that are predominantly Latinos. Those that are predominantly Asian and white and that definitely is something that I came to realize as I got older.

V: My next question goes along with this topic. But how do you feel like with your experiences, how do you think you were able to see changes in your community due to immigration, or if you even saw any changes or if you feel like it has always been the way it is now?

F: I did not really realize how strong of a presence the immigrant is in Chapel Hill until I was older and I do not know if it was because there weren't as many here in the town when I was in elementary or if it was probably more that they were but I was more oblivious to it. But in high school it definitely became more apparent because in addition to Latin American immigrants, there were also Burmese immigrants, there was a fluctuation of Burmese immigrants that were I believe fleeing persecution in their home country. Every year in High School we would get more Burmese students. We even started getting extra-curricular activities, learning Korean I think it's the language they speak. It was just kind of cool to witness a new wave of people coming into your community and I hope that they felt welcomed. I definitely saw our schools trying to make efforts to include them. My mom is a pediatrician and she works in a clinic in Carrboro. I know a lot of patients she sees are often immigrants, a lot of them are Spanish speaking and some of them are Burmese. Even most recently she has been telling me that there is, I cannot remember what country in African they are from, I want to say Ethiopia but I am not positive about that. Through her work experience I have noticed that there are definitely waves of people coming in and our community keep growing.

V: Of course, How of you --. I mean I think that from what I am hearing for you, as a High Schooler it seemed like you were more open to this idea of different students coming in. You mentioned you thought it was cool that your school was taking these initiatives to welcome them, do you feel that overall the student body felt the same way or were there other students that maybe felt more critical about that?

F: I feel like at my high school, since Chapel Hill is kind of a bubble you kind of stood out if you thought negatively of these people coming in. As a whole I think that everyone recognizes all the positive qualities that all these new people were bringing to the area. I hope, at least the friends that I had, thought like I did and were open to the idea. I actually worked, I was a part of the student newspaper at my school and we were always trying to make sure that everyone in the school was equally represented as much as possible in the paper. Not that you were just supposed to do stories about your friends, you are supposed to reach out to everyone so that was a good way for me to see what else was going even if those were not the people I had the most direct contact with. The Latino population had such a strong presence that we actually ended up publishing several articles in Spanish in the paper. That was something that we implemented while I was there because we knew that, especially there were certain articles that mattered to people that would want to read them in Spanish and we hoped that maybe those students would go home and show them to their parents. If their parents did not read English very well then they would also be able to be involved.

V: That is really cool, are there any stories that you remember being on the paper?

F: We definitely covered one about the voter I.D. one while I was in high school and how that was going to affect people who did not have as much access to a driver's license, which is often immigrants and minority students and often times they are Spanish speakers. That was definitely one that we, I think we publish that one in English and Spanish. There was a second article that I am remembering, I believe it had to do with a local official that was being elected to maybe the school board or running for mayor of the town. She herself was Latino and a lot of her messages, or she tried to reach out to the Latino population, Spanish was her first language. When we interviewed her, we did the interview in Spanish and wrote up the article in Spanish.

V: Did she end up being in office or no?

F: I think she did, I remember taking her picture of her at her desk with her name tag so I am like she must have gotten the position or else I would not remember.

V: That is cool. Talking about immigration I wanted to ask you, how do you feel like you became first interested in this topic, often called issue of immigration?

F: I am not sure who or what thing specifically to attribute it first but there is a few things that are definitely really important in my life and why. One of my best friends, and I won't mention her name because I do not know if she would want to be on the interview but the one that I mentioned earlier that her family had migrated here from Mexico and I might not have realized it at the time but after I grew up and looked back on that friend and reflected on our friendship, I was inspired by her life and by the community that she lived in. That is definitely a big part of it. Another major part is my youngest brother, his name is Jorge. When I was nine my family traveled to Guatemala and adopted him, now he is my brother of course. He is kind of, I always think of him as one of my major motivations or the reason to why I am passionate about learning Spanish and I love learning about Spanish speaking countries, it is one of my majors here at school. I have been able to be travel with my family to several Central American countries. Just through that travel and being connected there you cannot, you can't ignore immigration. That is one of the main topics like you said that is connected with that region of the world. If you are interested in that region of the world, you have to think about immigration. Even though Toby is not, I mean he is Guatemalan but he is not, he obviously he does not; even though he looks Latino does not mean he has the experience of an immigrant but that just how I feel connected in a way to Spanish culture and I don't know, it's something that is just interesting to me.

V: With your friend that you mentioned, you mentioned you know before I guess noticing the differences or yea I do not know if differences is the right word but later on looking back and realizing, what are some of those things that you feel when you look back you realize the differences I guess? I do not know if that would be the right words.

F: I just remember it was one birthday that I went to and I think I was the only white girl there and she lived in an area where all of the community, they might all have not been from Mexico, they might have been from other areas of Central America but they were all out and celebrating. Everyone around me were speaking Spanish and they were playing soccer, and there was piñata and her mom had cooked tamales. It was just a totally different sense of community than I think I had ever experience. We said the "dale dale dale". I was just like "wow" this is just, its different but it's really cool. That was just one memory that I have. Now I feel like I cannot; I do not want to share much of her story because it is not mine because it is not my story. But I think she is awesome and I want people like her to have the best opportunities in this country that they can. She is not the only immigrant; well she's probably my first youngest experience but as I have grown older I have had more interactions with people that migrated here. For example, I worked in a restaurant last year and some of the cooks were immigrants from El Salvador. I kind of got to talk to them and hear some of the challenges that they've face. Just having relationships with these people makes me feel more passionate about it and so angry when some of the things you see on the news and people’s reactions. The way policy is going right now in this country is just upsetting but makes me want to fight for it.

V: I think that is, what you said that you do not particularly identify yourself as being also an immigrant I guess but do you consider yourself like an ally with this community.

F: For sure. One hundred percent.

V: What are, I guess in a perfect world or in a better world, what would be some of the things that you wish could change?

F: I definitely think that, several of the arguments that people use against immigrants I think a lot of them are just untrue. For example they decrease job opportunities for Americans but in real life most of them are doing really hard job and often don't get the benefits and the right pay for it. You can't use that argument if you yourself would not do the work they are doing. I also get kind of frustrated when it is assumed that a lot more immigrants that come on will make our country, puts our country in bigger danger, especially with what is going on in the middle east, they are kind of shutting down or Donald Trump wants to shut down the border and he is using fear as a big source of that reasoning. We have people in this country... Our problems with gun is to me, much more big of a risk and I feel that everyday Americans have the guns is much bigger problem that we have to worry about than a dangerous immigrant coming into this country. I think they are unfairly portrait in that way often times. So, in an ideal situation like you are saying, I would want, anyone who wants to come here. I do not know the economic realistor (), how realistic that is. But if someone wants to be here we should take that as a compliment and welcome them and give them the human rights and access to health care. That is something since my mom, both of my parents are doctors, that is one aspect of it that I have noticed a lot; have heard a lot about it. Heath care, how the access is unequal and unaffordable for many people. It just should not be that way. Of course with the education aspect too, and all. But I think that Obama has the right mind on that of wanting to make college affordable since it’s pretty much accepted now that education allows you mobility in terms of being successful in whatever you want to do. That is making education, higher level, accessing to everyone.

V: You mentioned your parents, how active or influential you think they have been in the way that you perceive immigration?

F: I would say my parents are very liberal but they tend to keep their opinions to themselves. I can't remember a time when they told me what I should think or told me that my opinion was wrong. But I am sure that just from being in my household what news station was on the television, or what things they surrounded me with, probably definitely had an influence on how I developed my mindset. But I don't think there was ever, I can't remember there being a point where they kind of directly impacted my thinking. I honestly think it came from my Chapel Hill Community. I think if had grown up in another part of North Carolina even, I could have been totally different. But I mean I hope not, I disagree with what those people have to think and I would not what that to be me. Also, both of them, both of my parents speak Spanish. They were the ones who decided to adopt my brother. I definitely credit them with parking my relationship with Spanish and traveling there, but in terms of immigration I am not really sure if I can pinpoint their impact there.

V: I think your community; it does sound like your community has definitely shaped, and your interactions with people from your community, so I think that totally makes sense. You mentioned that because you are from here and from this area, you have certain viewpoints. What about now, that you are in college? There are so many people that are from different places and different backgrounds. Do you feel like they have challenged or that your views have been challenged more now you are here at a place with somewhat more diversity?

F: I definitely think they, my views, have expanded. Coming in I thought that I and pretty, I guess a pretty open mind. But coming here I've met some new people that I had not even considered their experience. For example, I have never met an immigrant who had been a farmworker in the past and that is totally different that the immigrants I have met in my community because my community is not agriculture at all. I had no relationship with the agricultural sector in North Carolina even though my state is all about agriculture, I had never experience that coming in and that was a big change for me. Again, Chapel Hill is a bubble. How did I not know that this was going on? In a way it had already expanded what I had already known. I know that there is people, several students here, they may be labeled as the more conservative or more right leaning view. I mean of course, I respect that they have different opinions than me and it is important to have these conversations because that is the only way that we can really, they are not going to go away so we are going to have to compromise to talk about it because that is the only way that the problem is going to get solved.

V: Well is there anything else that you would like to share?

F: Nothing I can think of.

V: Thank you!