On Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013, the Student Public Interest
Network (SPIN) hosted their annual Forum. This year's forum was a
panel discussion focusing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
(CIR), featuring Sheila Quintana from DreamActivist Pennsylvania,
Erika Almiron from Juntos, Liz Chacko from Friends of Farmworkers,
and Mia-lia Kiernan from the 1Love Movement. The panel was
moderated by Professor Jaya Ramji-Nogales.
The panelists were asked to voice their opinions and perspectives
about the positive and negative aspects of CIR as it has been
proposed and as it could be proposed. The panelists provided
insight into how CIR would impact their communities, paying
particular attention to who would be included vs. excluded in CIR,
how this divide may serve to perpetuate stereotypes about "good"
and "bad" immigrants, and how families and communities could be
torn apart by the passage of CIR.
The panelists spoke about the many issues facing the communities
with which they work. For example, they discussed the Vietnam
War-era bombing of Cambodia that led to the influx of refugees from
southeast Asia and the racial tensions that it caused, the economic
reasons for widespread immigration from Central and South America,
and the relationship between immigration and the school-to-prison
(or school-to-deportation) pipeline.
Finally, the panelists addressed the role of law and lawyers in
immigration work as well as how we should proceed if comprehensive
CIR is not the best approach for many immigrant communities. They
discussed how lawyers should think not just about stopping
deportations as the bottom line in providing legal services to
immigrants, and instead consider other options and realities.
Lawyers should work in solidarity with activists to create the best
possible solutions for immigrant communities. Several panelists
proposed that instead of trying to achieve sweeping CIR, activism
can take place on the local level to ensure that large-scale
compromises don't leave out huge swaths of immigrant
A brief question-and-answer session took place following the panel,
allowing the audience, comprised of students, faculty, and
community members, to engage in a dialogue with the panelists. SPIN
looks forward to maintaining this dialogue, both on campus and in
other communities, and to continuing to work with all of these
advocates and organizations in the future.