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2013 SPIN Forum Tackles Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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 communities.
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.

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