Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

Passionate voices rang out against illegal immigration Monday night when a group of local residents met to discuss their opinions and concerns with guest speaker Ron Branstner, a minuteman from California.

The community meeting was sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction group.

Branstner, who is originally from Minnesota, shared his experiences as a border watcher and what inspired him to become one.

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"This group in front of me is the greatest generation," said Branstner. "This is a group that fought in World War II. … We don’t see the same kind of heart and tenacity in the younger generation. Let’s face it, the younger generation is blind, deaf and dumb. We need to educate the younger generation so they know what is really going on with these issues. We need that wall and we need more border patrol."

Paul Westrum, a resident of Albert Lea and the founder of MCFIR, said the purpose of the meeting was to work on the immigration issue, which he said is not a racial issue but a legal one.

"I’m not here to bellyache," said Westrum. "I’m here to tell what’s going on. If you don’t like what is going on like I don’t, then let’s do something about it. We have to fight together or we won’t win on this issue."

Republican congressional candidate State Sen. Dick Day attended the meeting and spoke about his congressional proposal to control America’s borders.

"This is the biggest issue today in the state of Minnesota," said Day. "The first thing is protect the damn border. The second is everyone has to be legal. This is a huge, huge issue. A lot of people are afraid of it."

Many in the crowd were fired up on the issue.

"The constitution is being taken away from us," shouted one person.

"This is going to be a third-world country soon," said another.

"Everyone in the world is going to come here," another said.

As one man was leaving, he suggested that the group "buy bullets."

At one point while Branstner was listing the countries that illegal immigrants come from, he was corrected by Liliana Silvestry, executive director of Austin’s Welcome Center, when he mentioned Somalia.

"Excuse me," said Silvestry. "You cannot include Somalia. They are refugees."

Branstner admitted his mistake and asked Silvestry to stand up and answer some questions about the Welcome Center.

Many in the group let Silvestry know her presence was not welcome.

"Send her back," said one person in the group.

"You are not the speaker tonight," said another.

Branstner asked the group to listen to what Silvestry had to say.

Silvestry said the intent of the Welcome Center was to break down communication barriers and teach newcomers how to manage life on their own and help them find jobs.

"Yeah, illegal newcomers," said one person in the group.

Silvestry responded by saying she believes every person that comes to the country should come legally.

"I stand for those who want to come here, pay taxes and make their life better," said Silvestry. "I came to Austin because I was invited here to develop a program."

"Welcome to America," said Branstner.

"I’ve been here since I was born," responded Silvestry.