The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Trasviña addresses immigration

Claudia Braga-Henebry | Thursday, September 6, 2007

America’s “schizophrenia” concerning immigration was a main theme in Wednesday’s lecture by guest speaker John Trasviña, an influential voice in the continuing debate over Latino immigration.

Focusing largely on United States history and the continuing vacillation on immigration issues, Trasviña’s speech was a lesson in politics, history and acceptance.

A piece of Trasviña’s schizophrenia theme concentrated on the welcoming of migrants into America.

“Sometimes [immigrants] are welcome, and sometimes they’re not, depending on their country of origin and the time period,” he said. He cited Indianapolis as an example of a city that welcomes and helps immigrants.

Trasviña mentioned the city’s high naturalization rate and the positive repercussions that has for a community.

Trasviña also focused on America’s history regarding immigration policies and sentiment – from the 1800s on – touching on various influxes of certain immigrant groups.

“The debate [on immigration] needs to be elevated from a debate where we simply scream at each other, into a national conversation about immigration,” Trasviña said.

To the average Notre Dame student, immigration should be an issue to get involved with, Trasviña said.

“Immigration has far-reaching implications for every business, family and community … students will be entering into a workforce of a more interdependent world.”

A native of San Francisco, Trasviña graduated from Harvard University and went on to study at Stanford Law School. He has held many prestigious political and nonpolitical positions, and is currently the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

According to its website, MALDEF’s mission is “to foster sound public policies, laws and programs to safeguard the civil rights of the 45 million Latinos living in the United States and to empower the Latino community to fully participate in our society.” 

“We’re the law firm for the entire Latino community, and not just the immigrants,” Trasviña said of MALDEF.

The lecture was the first in a series of public policy lectures sponsored by Notre Dame’s Institute of Latino Studies, given by influential voices for Latino affairs in present day America.

“Latino Immigrants in America, Our Past and Our Future,” the title of the series, will run through the entire academic school year, the next installment coming Dec. 7, said Yolanda Lizardi Marino, the Institute’s director of academic affairs.  

Trasviña’s talk was entitled “A Public Policy Agenda and a New Vision for the Future.”

Each Wednesday through the middle of October a documentary will be shown in 126 DeBartolo Hall about immigrants from varying countries throughout the world, including China, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Both the lecture and the film series are open to the public.