Social Work professors lead immigration discussion
By Joel Goldstein | The Michigan Daily - 11/11/2014
The topic of immigration has evolved throughout U.S. history, though never lacking in complexity and contentiousness Social Work Profs. Sherrie Kossoudji and Laura Sanders took up the subject on Tuesday, leading a discussion on U.S. immigration reform.
The panel discussion was hosted by the groups Common Sense Action and Social Work Allies for Immigrant Rights. Kossoudji and Sanders, who are activists for immigrants’ rights in the Ann Arbor community, spoke about the “push factors” that motivate people to cross the borders without documentation.
“It’s really important for us to learn about the issues that create the world around us, especially because you don’t get the whole story on CNN,” said LSA sophomore Daniel Karr, vice president of policy for Common Sense Action.
Sanders said immigration policy took a turn for the worse after 9/11, following the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, referring to what many say are violent and dehumanizing detention and deportation tactics enforced on the undocumented immigrant community. According to national reports, 369,000 deportations took place in 2013.
Sanders is a co-founder of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, an activist group that represents immigrants and works to ensure that they are treated fairly and within their rights. The group maintains an open phone line to help people who are facing abuse, detention or deportation. The group also provides educational programs for immigrants to make sure they know their rights.
Sanders said the organization has received more than 526 calls over the past six years. WICIR has also worked with the local government and sheriff to create a more humane environment for undocumented immigrants in the community. Sanders emphasized that new national immigration policies have begun to favor tough border security as opposed to legal pathways.
“There’s a real necessity for legal pathways for the millions of people who are here right now,” Sanders said.
She also said the immigration system that is designed to house permanent residents and the non-immigrant visitor system began to merge in the ’70s and ’80s, leading to the complicated bureaucracy we have today.
“If you were to become legal citizen today, you probably started around 1992, because of how long the waiting lists are,” Kossoudji said.
At the end of the lecture, Kossoudji explained the benefits Americans gain from allowing immigrants to enter the country. According to Kossoudji, undocumented immigrants tend to make less than minimum wage, doing jobs that Americans don’t want to do, which pushes down prices throughout the economy.