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Faculty, students debate immigration

Ashley Charnley | Friday, October 12, 2007

In a faculty-student debate on social, political and economic effects of immigration Thursday, the only clear conclusion the panel could reach is that the issue is not going away.

More than 20 students gathered in the Dooley Room of LaFortune to watch the panel, with a team of political science Professor Anthony Messina and senior political science major Amy Meyer and a team of Latin American studies Professor Jorge Bustamante and senior history major Stuart Mora.

Messina described immigration as a moral plug and “an interest driven phenomenon,” and said he views American immigration as a cyclical problem.

“We are part of a political immigration cycle,” he said. “We keep moving along and at one point we are going to move to a better part.”

Comparing the current American issue to the problems in Europe, Messina said the European condition is a much more dangerous situation.

There are many European countries that are fairly homogeneous. These countries are adverse to immigration because it threatens their homogeneity,” said Messina. “There is no one silver bullet, there is no one comprehensive act, and there is no one policy approach that is going to address all these issues simultaneously.”

Meyer argued that immigrants are not a threat to our society and can assimilate themselves into society over time.

“There is a need for government to regulate any people moving back and forth, as well as to promote immigration education just to make sure that we take care of the residents which I think is actually the most important part of immigration,” she said.

Meyer discussed a study on the preferred identity of immigrants in the United States.

“I think that the longer we promote our image, the more likely they are going to assimilate to the American cultural order,” she said.

Bustamante, of the opposing team, discussed the idea of perception versus reality.

“The first exercise that anyone is analyzing in the United States specifically is to separate perceptions from realities,” he said. “The two things can go into two very contradictory positions.”

He also discussed the reality of the U.S. government response to illegal immigration.

“In many parts of the world you will find ideals based on racism,” Bustamante said. “The most important issue for immigrants themselves is the raids going on all over the United States. Adults are being taken in front of the children wondering why that is happening. That is happening right now, right now in the United States.”

Mora explored the topic of immigrant workers in opposition with native workers.

“You will see in capital and labor relations that the ability of workers to organize is hindered by the fear that they feel toward these immigrant workers,” he said.

Unions struggled to organize because they couldn’t overcome racial barriers, he said.

“When you look across the border and see eight to ten times higher wages than your own, and you look at your children and wonder if you can afford to give them an education, you are willing to take that risk, and as long as that opportunity is there, they will continue to take that opportunity,” Mora said.

He said he does not believe illegal immigration is going to go away.

“As long as that carrot is hanging out there, wages ten times higher than home, people are going to continue crossing the border,” Mora said.