Immigration: Insights from Indiana University
EDITORS: The following Indiana University professors have expertise and insights relevant to the immigration debate in Congress.
The current debate about immigration reform goes to the heart of who we are as a nation of immigrants. "Our immigration system has been broken for decades and severely in need of meaningful reform. We have an estimated undocumented population of 11 million to 12 million persons residing in this country, and the reality is that it is impossible to deport them all. The majority of these undocumented persons work and contribute to our economy and have ties to our country, some even children who are U.S. citizens. There is a need to maintain border security, certainly after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, but at the same time we need to balance that need with our need in the globalized economy to have a robust workforce," said María Pabón López, assistant professor of law, co-director of the Latin American Law Summer Program, and Dean's Fellow who teaches a course titled "The Rights of Noncitizens/Aliens" at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis and also teaches "Immigration and Nationality Law." "Legalization, guest worker programs and other alternatives are on the table, and they are all worth considering. What has happened in the past is instructive to the present. The United States had a guest worker program with Mexico from 1942 to the 1960s, the Bracero program, which has been criticized for many reasons. Other countries have had guest worker programs, such as Germany in the last century and Spain last year, with varying degrees of success. Legalization, or starting the meter at zero and identifying our 'shadow population,' may provide the most comprehensive way to address the competing needs of the workers, the economy and border security," López said. To speak with López, contact Rich Schneider, 317-278-4564 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any policies put into place from the current debate on immigration and legal work permit status will have an impact on school-age children. The harsher the policies, the more likely negative effects will accrue for children, said Barbara Korth, an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Education in Bloomington. Korth's research examines the experiences of new immigrant, migrant and transnational students in Indiana schools. Presently, it is illegal for schools to ask for information about legal status -- schools are expected to serve all children regardless of the status of their migration. The current plans to toughen up the surveillance of legality will challenge the schools' ability to provide education as a basic human right. Korth said there are some probable side-effects of such policies, such as the potential for children to go uneducated or undereducated because of their parents' or family's migration patterns. Children could be mistreated because of their perceived "legal" status -- children from Mexico might be treated like suspected criminals, and communities and teachers might not develop invested relationships with children who they think are "not one of us." In Korth's research, one persistent finding is that teachers are not as successful with students who they do not call their own. "One pernicious aspect of the debate is the way it negates the benefits schools and communities receive by having a more diverse population -- more diverse linguistically, culturally, historically and even nationally," she said. "Moreover, the current debate seems to emphasize national-level economic interests without regard to the global educational considerations. In educational terms, there would be global and national value to retaining the current mandate for k-12 school access for all students regardless of migration documentation." She said it is important to consider the educational ramifications as part of the policy deliberations. To speak with Korth, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 and email@example.com.
The debate over immigration is actually an old one. Many American employers have always relied on streams of foreign-born labor to fill both unskilled and highly skilled positions. "In the 19th century, cheap labor moved steadily into jobs in the expanding railroad and iron industries. These economic endeavors could not have advanced without this supply of inexpensive workers," said John Bodnar, professor and chair of the Department of History at IU Bloomington. Sometimes corporate needs required indispensable skills -- this was especially true of the glass industry, Bodnar said. And there were always people with skills and resources who saw America as an opportunity to realize hopes for political freedom and economic improvement. On the other hand, millions came simply to make money for a time and then return to their homelands. "Immigration to America produced success stories, but also countless tales of failure and loss," he said. "Americans themselves always debated the merits of immigration and the impact it was having on society. Critics were abundant, and they claimed that newcomers lowered wages or even moral standards. Protestants hated Catholics; Anglo-Saxons did not like newcomers from Asia. At the same time, there were Americans who preached acceptance and tolerance. In the 1920s, laws were enacted that favored Northern European groups over Southern and Eastern Europeans. These laws were not overturned until 1965, when new legislation resulted in attracting more arrivals from Asia and Latin America." Bodnar can be reached at 812-855-3236, 812-855-0002 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
States across the country have been considering legislation designed to clamp down on illegal immigrants by denying them and their children health care, education or driver's licenses. "But these measures are driven less by a practical concern for the country's well-being than by an ideological conviction that undocumented immigrants should be punished for breaching our nation's boundaries. Such laws merely create a category of people known as 'illegals' whose labor is valued but whose humanity, cultural capital and well-being are not," said John Nieto-Phillips, associate professor of history and Latino studies at IU Bloomington. He studies the evolution of Latino communities in the United States and neighboring regions since the late 19th century. He is interested in the varied ways Latinas and Latinos have responded to their marginalization from the United States' body politic and have contested what "American citizenship" should be. His research and teaching involve aspects of Latina and Latino civic identities as defined by race, migration, gender, language, education and social class. Nieto-Phillips can be reached at 812-855-8589 or email@example.com.