Magazine article The Masthead

Panel Shows the Contentiousness of Immigration Issues

Magazine article The Masthead

Panel Shows the Contentiousness of Immigration Issues

Article excerpt

Immigration can be a contentious issue.

Just ask Professor Susan Gzesh of the University of Chicago or Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. They addressed NCEW members during a Friday morning panel at the Chicago convention. Moderated by Alfredo Lanier, editorial board member of the Chicago Tribune, the nearly two-hour discussion presented two panelists with clearly differing views on U.S. immigration policy.

Gzesh said that the "guts of the matter," particularly for undocumented Mexicans living in the United States, is the issue of the right to remain. She said that there was a "vast gap in discourse between the federal level and local communities."

She cited two cities--Chicago and Fort Wayne, Indiana--that have welcomed and encouraged civic participation among non-citizens. Positive results in those communities showed that "functioning as citizens is some thing immigrants want to do," Gzesh said.

But is Homeland Security unjustly using terrorism fears as an excuse to turn away immigrants, particularly Mexicans?

Krikorian said he doesn't think so.

In the age of heightened national security concerns, immigration--particularly border enforcement--should be a top priority, he said.

"The homefront is the actual battlefront," he said. In the war on terror "offense is important, but defense is as important, if not more."

While Krikorian said that the issue has "nothing to do with Islamism," the focus of his talk was almost exclusively on Arab and Muslim militants who pose potential threats to the United States. "We're not talking about immigration; we're talking about evil. Evil is using immigration as a vehicle--the means--to attack us."

Gzesh cited historical cycles that have influenced U.S. immigration policy. The need for laborers has created a "historical marriage of convenience," she said. …

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