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Daring to Care: Making Visible the Gendered Dynamics of Immigration Event

Posted by: rothsteino | October 31, 2018 | No Comment |

To say that immigration is one of the hottest topics in American politics feels almost like an understatement. One can hardly open the news application on their phone or go on social media without seeing at least one article pertaining to the issue. Immigration policy concerns were heightened this summer, as President Trump enforced a family separation policy that was viewed by many as cruel and unnecessary. As photographs of children torn from their mothers’ arms and held in cages spread throughout the nation, American citizens started to question the state of our immigration policies – some for the very first time. While Americans began to argue with one another about the humanity, legality, and necessity of such policies, political science professor and the director of the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center (GSEC) Dr. Hollis France began to wonder: How did we as a country even get to this point?

Thus, Dr. France was inspired to organize a panel with three of her colleagues about the history of immigration policy in America and, more specifically, its relationship with gender. She invited three panelists to speak: Mr. Mohammed Iqbal Degia, Professor Briana McGinnis, and Professor Julia McReynolds-Perez.

Mr. Mohammed Iqbal Degia is a senior international affairs professional whose dominant interests include human rights, gender and race. Dr. France asked him to speak about the deep relationship these interests have with immigration, particularly in America. To inform, he gave a presentation outlining the history of immigration in America and how that history influences the climate today. Degia reminded the audience that the U.S. was built on the idea that “white is the standard or the norm, and non-white is abnormal and ‘other’.” Thus, white is a priority, an advantage. Since the attacks of September 11th, the concept of the “other” has flourished, particularly through Islamophobia, and has been exacerbated by Trump’s controversial Muslim ban. However, Degia reminds us that discrimination against the “other” is not unique to today and has been around since Columbus and even earlier. He emphasized that it’s important to understand this long history of discrimination and to take a “holistic approach” so as to become empowered and encourage change. Degia ended with a reminder to all those present to vote on November 6th to make our voices heard.

Following Mr. Degia was Dr. Briana McGinnis from the Department of Political Science. While this may be Dr. McGinnis’ first year at CofC, this was hardly her first time speaking about immigration laws and policies in the United States. Public law and the ethics of migration are two of her key interests, as illustrated in her speech. For this event, she specifically focused on the Immigration Nationality Act and the Likely Public Charge Exception Provision, which has existed since 1882. She elaborated how these legal policies impact the American process of deportation, emphasizing the fact that “deportation is something we do because we choose to do it; it is not something we have to do.” She then expanded upon why we choose to deport people, even our own citizens in some cases, and what this says about our society. She concluded similarly to Mr. Degia, encouraging the audience to be vigilant and wary of history, as it has a habit of repeating itself.

The concluding speaker was Dr. Julia McReynolds-Perez, a Visiting Professor of Sociology at the College of Charleston who focuses on Latino/a immigrant experiences. Dr. McReynolds-Perez began by telling her own family’s story of immigration from Argentina. She then discussed the major misconceptions that plague America regarding immigration, debunking all of them one by one. The largest misconception she focused on was how immigration is administrative law, not criminal, and until relatively recently the government treated it as such. That is not to say problems with the American immigration system only appeared recently. Dr. McReynolds-Perez stressed how “We have an immigration system that’s just broken and has been broken for decades.” She then detailed the ways it is failing, particularly how harmful the current system is to women. She reminded the audience that “gender and race have always been a part of this story” and they will continue to be part of it well into the future. Like the other speakers, she concluded by encouraging audience members to look and work towards a future system that benefits all Americans and humans as a whole.

After Dr. McReynolds-Perez finished her remarks, Dr. Hollis France facilitated questions from the audience. Multiple students participated, asking speakers to elaborate on statistics and facts, while also asking them to provide their own opinions and guidance for the future. After all the questions had been answered, Dr. France reiterated her gratitude to all the speakers and audience members for attending. By the end, many had learned much about America’s history, our present circumstances, and had solidified some intentions for the future.



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