‘Pizza, Pop and Politics’ explores immigration policies
Courtney Becker | Wednesday, March 30, 2016
ND Votes ’16 hosted the latest installment of “Pizza, Pop and Politics” in Geddes Hall on Tuesday night to discuss immigration and American policy. Guest speakers included Jennifer Jones, assistant sociology professor, and Luis Fraga, professor of political science and Arthur Foundation Endowed Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership.
Jones said United States immigration policy has been very fluid throughout the country’s history.
“Immigration law is not something that is sort of part and parcel of our history from its inception,” Jones said. “We have changed the way that we thought about immigration, the way that we thought about newcomers and the way that we thought about people who are in and who we want out.”
While policies have changed, Jones said, the spotlight on the Latino population during discussions about immigration has remained consistent.
“When we’re talking about [immigration] in terms of politics we are almost always thinking about Latinos, and now increasingly, Muslims,” she said. “As soon as we had this idea about whom we wanted out, Mexicans sort of stood in for them. … This isn’t a permanent situation, but it is certainly something we have done before.”
Fraga said because of this stereotype immigration serves as part of the conversation surrounding racial discrimination in the United States.
“The politics of U.S. immigration policy have always been tied to visions of national identity, and I think we see that today,” he said. “The controversy over that vision of national identity related to immigration is tied to the role of marginalized, especially racial ethnic groups in the United States. It’s never just about immigration.”
Jones said although immigration has taken center stage in several presidential primary debates during this election season, immigration policy is more commonly affected at the state level.
“In terms of the level to which immigration is important to you in choosing a presidential candidate, your choices are actually relatively clear,” she said. “However, the way that I see it is that’s not where the action is. What’s more important to me is you paying attention to what’s happening at the state level. At this point, the way that we deal with immigration law and policy has much more to do with what is happening within the context of states than what’s happening at the federal level.”
States’ focus on immigration began as a way to promote action by the federal government, Fraga said.
“State-level immigration laws exploded, especially in the mid 2000s when the issue of immigration became more and more important to more and more folks across the country,” he said. “States began to take immigration into their hands out of a perception that the inefficiencies of federal government were causing them to incur more costs and its citizens to pay for costs that the inefficiencies of federal enforcement policy was requiring.”
Jones said a president’s executive power is limited in terms of altering or creating immigration policy.
“We’re in a very different position because, in the real world, comprehensive immigration reform can’t be passed without senators and legislators, and you can’t actually deport 40 million people without massive local-level support,” Jones said. “So whatever the presidential candidates are saying and what they plan to do is not inconsequential, but it doesn’t measure up to the kind of things that you see at the state level.”
Fraga said the focus on immigration during the presidential election provides voters with an opportunity to shape the country’s future.
“There are some constructive ways of thinking about it,” he said. “The placement of immigration front and center in the presidential campaign by Donald Trump … makes our choice as to who we’re going to support an opportunity to determine what vision for the country we have.”
Fraga said he advises caution in deciding where the country’s future should go because this choice will have long-term effects.
“The choices that you’re making today, given the choices among the candidates, will have direct implications for what your country is going to be like for a long period of time,” he said. “The choices that you make today have tremendous consequences for you individually. Take those choices seriously and make them wise choices.”