Posted on 11/26/2018
The Women’s and Gender Studies Program would like to thank everyone who came out to support “Race and the University: Immigration Now” on Thursday, November 15th, 2018. A special thanks goes to our guest speakers: Stephen J. Sills (Center for Housing and Community Studies, Director), Leilani Roughton (New Arrivals Institute, Executive Director), and Holly C. Sienkiewicz (Center for New North Carolinians, Director).
Sills discussed what he calls the “push-pull factors” of international migration. In the U.S. during the 1920s and 1930s, foreign-born people were encouraged to come as part of the rise of industry and agriculture, while the current rhetoric of wall building is pushing people out. In 2000, the percentage of foreign-born people living in North Carolina was about 5%, whereas today 8% of the NC population is foreign born (about 800,000 people.) Sills notes of the things pushing folks out of their homelands are unemployment, a lack of services, poor safety and security, concerns over increasing crime rates, crop failures, drought, flooding, poverty, and war. Factors pulling migrants into the U.S. are related to the potential for employment, better service provision, safer atmospheres, lower crime rates, fertile land, good food suppliers, less risk of natural hazards, greater wealth, political security, more attractive climates and quality of life. Under the Bracero Program in 1942, migrants were legally brought in and there was a documented flow of immigration. In 1994, Operation Gatekeeper closed borders, keeping people out and de facto encouraging migrants within U.S. borders to remain, rather than periodically return to their home countries as they had tended to do previously. Due to an inability to cross freely and the fear of being permanently barred from re-entry into the U.S., undocumented populations actually increased as families attempted to reunite.
According to Roughton, Director of the New Arrivals Institute, of the 68.5 million displaced people worldwide, and 25.4 million of these people fall under the category of refugees. They undergo a tedious three-year process to enter the U.S., including extensive medical screening and documentation they must have before coming here. If even the smallest issue raises a flag, they go back to square one in the process. Under Trump’s Muslim ban, folks were set back two and three years, even in cases where extensive arrangements had been made to set them up upon entry into the U.S. Further, the Trump administration has set the refugee admission goal for 2019 at 30,000—the lowest it has ever been.
Sienkiewicz of the Center for New North Carolinians added that since Trump decided we are no longer a “welfare state”, there has been a five-year ban placed on social services rendered to immigrants, who are susceptible to lose their visa if even one family member is found utilizing public assistance. This does not apply to refugees, asylees, victims of crimes, or trafficking victims. Sienkiewicz also addressed The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA). It was rescinded in September 2017 by the current administration, although three federal courts of appeals have ruled against the Trump Administration to date. Also now, under “improper entry” laws, it is a crime to unlawfully enter the U.S. Resulting from current immigration policy changes, 2,342 children have been systematically separated from their families. Studies have shown separating children from their families, is most detrimental to childhood development, resulting in toxic stress and a perpetual state of being in survival mode. Although President Obama was responsible for the largest number of deportees during his presidency, he focused on criminals, not soccer moms and children. There are statistics highlighting how migration influences our economy for the better, but they have been purposely withheld to support current rhetoric and ideologies that seek to keep people out. No human is illegal and the United States would not exist if that were even remotely the case.