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The immigration debate in America

At a panel dis­cus­sion Tuesday evening on immi­gra­tion issues in America, asso­ciate pro­fessor of law Rachel Rosen­bloom noted that the U.S is on pace to deport some 2 mil­lion people during the Obama administration’s first six years—a figure that would match the same total over the 105-​​year period since 1892. What’s more, she said the U.S. gov­ern­ment spends more on immi­gra­tion enforce­ment than all other fed­eral law enforce­ment agen­cies combined.

Rosen­bloom, whose research focuses on immi­gra­tion law and the country’s depor­ta­tion system, said these num­bers reflect a “system gone wild,” adding that U.S. immi­gra­tion policy has impli­ca­tions for all Americans—not just those in immi­grant populations.

“Regard­less of any­thing that hap­pens in com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform, this trend is showing no sign of abating,” she said. “This is the world that we live in.”

Serena Parekh, an assis­tant pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Phi­los­ophy and Reli­gion, and Ramiro Mar­tinez Jr., a pro­fessor in the School of Crim­i­nology and Crim­inal Jus­tice, joined Rosen­bloom on the panel of North­eastern scholars who dis­cussed immi­gra­tion in America from a legal, philo­soph­ical, and crim­inal jus­tice per­spec­tive. The event, titled “Immi­gra­tion and Democ­racy,” was the latest in the edu­ca­tional series on civic sus­tain­ability titled “Con­flict. Civility. Respect. Peace. North­eastern Reflects. Held in the Renais­sance Park building and attended by nearly 100 stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff, the event was mod­er­ated by Jack McDe­vitt, asso­ciate dean of research for the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties and director the Insti­tute on Race and Jus­tice.

“We don’t hear much rea­soned con­ver­sa­tion about the strengths and chal­lenges of immi­gra­tion in our country,” said McDe­vitt, “but our panel tonight will help us get there.”

Nearly 100 students, faculty, and staff attended the panel discussion on immigration in America.

Nearly 100 stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff attended the panel dis­cus­sion on immi­gra­tion in America.

In her remarks Tuesday evening, Parekh raised the philo­soph­ical issue of what America’s eth­ical and moral oblig­a­tions are to its immi­grants living here, both legally and ille­gally. This, she said, gets to the heart of an impor­tant fun­da­mental ques­tion: What kind of a country do we want to live in?

Parekh urged the audi­ence to con­sider two prin­ci­ples related to the country’s larger immi­gra­tion debate, one of which is society’s inter­de­pen­dence with immi­grant pop­u­la­tions. “We’re quick to think about the ben­e­fits (immi­grants) get, but we don’t con­sider the ways our lives are depen­dent on them too,” she said, pointing to agri­cul­tural and eco­nomic fac­tors. The second, she said, is the dis­tinc­tion between legality and morality—which she said is often glossed over in polit­ical debate.

Mar­tinez, for his part, focused on his quan­ti­ta­tive research on the rela­tion­ship between immi­gra­tion and crime. His work looks at homi­cide rates in some of the country’s largest Latino com­mu­ni­ties and the effect changes in immi­gra­tion pat­terns have on changes in crime in dif­ferent cities and com­mu­ni­ties across time and space. This research, he said, has shown increases in immi­grant pop­u­la­tions don’t lead to a rise in vio­lent crime in those com­mu­ni­ties, despite the impli­ca­tions of soci­etal stereotypes.

Pan­elists also fielded ques­tions on topics ranging from immi­gra­tion advo­cacy and reform to the effect of immi­gra­tion policy on Amer­ican businesses.

The year­long civic sus­tain­ability series is pre­sented by the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties, the Office of Stu­dent Affairs, and the School of Law. It is hosted by Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence Michael Dukakis in con­junc­tion with the Pres­i­den­tial Council on Inclu­sion and Diver­sity, the for­ma­tion of which Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun announced in February.

Pre­vious events in the series have focused on hate crimesstu­dent reflec­tions on expe­ri­en­tial learningthe Holo­caust, and the Boston Marathon bomb­ings.  The next event in the series, titled “Gay Rights after Gay Mar­riage,” will be held Nov. 13.

– By Greg St. Martin

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