On Wednesday, October 14, the Trinity Diversity Connection had a Diversity Dialogue on Latin American immigration. The panelists were William Mosely-Jensen, Alex Birnel, Viktoria Zerda, Katsuo Nishikawa, Rogelio Saenz and Daniela Montufar Soria. The discussion focused on immigration and the United States’ reaction to it.
“I think that one of the main focuses is diversity and kind of the current approach we have to immigration,” said William Mosely-Jensen, assistant professor of communication and director of debate.
Because of the recent remarks by candidates such as Donald Trump, members of the Trinity Diversity Connection and the Trinity population as a whole felt that a discussion was needed.
“I mean we’re located at one of the nexus points for immigration, both in terms of scholarly work on immigration and also just the physical movement of immigrants into the United States. Being in Texas, close to the Mexican border, provides the University with a unique opportunity to engage those issues, and has engaged those issues,” Mosely-Jensen said.
The discussion was structured around several large topics regarding immigration and United States Policy. Each panelist discussed their certain topic, and then a question-and-answer section was opened up to the audience.
William Mosely-Jensen was the first presenter. He discussed the historical rhetoric regarding immigration in the United States. He addressed how Latin American immigration is a fairly contemporary phenomena and how that has affected the political language of the 20th and 21st centuries.
“It’s important to note that when we think of our current American political imaginary as it relates to immigration, it’s a fairly recent phenomena also deeply embedded in historical tradition,” said Mosely-Jensen.
The second speaker was Alex Birnel, a senior at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He discussed United States foreign policy and its affect on Latin American countries. He also focused on the effect of this foreign policy on the introduction of Latin American gangs and the stereotype of the criminal immigrant.
“They faced typically what immigrants and non-native people face when they come to a new country, which is problems with assimilation. So this is the transition into how the gangs, which now plague the countries, became transnational. Often times you’d see the criminalization of these immigrant youths,” Birnel said.
The third speaker was Viktoria Zerda, another senior at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She discussed the realities of Latin American immigration based on her time working in one of the youth shelters.
She discussed the problems young girls face, the mishandling of mental illness and the cultural and domestic issues these young children face.
“These children’s shelters are not staffed with people who are competent enough to deal with these issues, and the government does not have any sort of plan or any sort of reform plan to really tackle these issues,” Zerda said.
The next speaker was Katsuo Nishikawa, associate professor of political science and director of the center for international citizenship. He discussed the way politics has been intertwined with immigration throughout the United States’ history. Specifically, how political parties integrate immigrants.
“What we see now is that political parties no longer actively recruit immigrants as they did 80 years ago,” Nishikawa said.
The fifth speaker was Rogelio Saenz, dean of public policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He discussed trends in Mexican migration to the United States. His findings were that there has been a major reduction in Mexican migration to the United States over the past decade. However, despite this reduction, the United States has seen an increase in anti-Mexican immigration rhetoric in the past years.
“I think there’s been quite a bit of racism being leveled against Latino immigrants, and particularly Mexican immigrants,” Saenz said.
The final speaker was Trinity first year Daniela Montufar Soria. She discussed the emotional aspect of immigration, from the perspective of a Mexican immigrant.
“The problem isn’t the immigrants but the governments of their home countries,” Soria said.
The overarching idea that the panel wanted to show was that immigrants should not be thought of as anything but people.
“Immigrants are human,” Mosely-Jensen said. “Just like us, they have hopes, fears and dreams for the future. And so anytime that we start to stereotype certain groups of people based on their national origins I think we’re making a grave error and so it’s important for folks to understand that, especially in the United States.”