By Pablo Gonzales | Assistant Web Editor
The LatinX Coalition and THIS Matters hosted a forum Wednesday at the Bobo Spiritual Life Center to provide a space to discuss immigration policy in today’s America.
The panelists included Laura Hernandez, professor at Baylor Law School, Kent McKeever, the director of the legal services program at Mission Waco, and Hope Mustakin, Waco Immigration Alliance member and graduate student at the Diana Garland School of Social Work. The panelists gave insight into the perceptions of immigration in American society and addressed concerns that many Americans have about immigration reform.
“Immigration is a frightening word,” Mustakim said. “Immigration is different for people from Asian countries, is different than for those of Latin American countries.”
Hernandez proceeded to speak about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) and the future of this legislation with President Donald Trump now in office. Former President Barack Obama enacted this legislation in 2012, granting the children of non-American citizens permission to work legally in the United States for two years, according to the American Immigration Council.
“Because this was a program that was instituted by the executive office and not congress, it could not be permanent and could not confer legal status,” Hernandez said. “Because it was instituted by the president, it can be destroyed by the president. With the swipe of the pen, President Trump can eliminate the program.”
McKeever continued to explain that as the future of DACA becomes more uncertain, many non-citizens are concerned about the future of their lives in the United States and because of the nature of the naturalization process, many non-citizens have no choice but to come to the United States illegally, McKeever said. McKeever addressed the complexity of the naturalization process and the narrative of non-citizens being a burden to American society.
“[Non-citizens] are not a burden because they choose to be a burden,” McKeever said. “They are a burden because our system sets them up for failure and makes them a burden. They want to have access— they have family relationships and employment — but have these immigration laws which act as a barrier after barrier that prevent them from getting legal status.”
Students were given the opportunity to engage with panelists and ask them questions about their experience with immigration policy and what can be done to change the conversation about it. Conversation groups were formed to allow students to connect with each other to share opinions and experiences.
“I wish I saw more people here [at immigration forum] that don’t know as much about immigration so that they can be educated on this topic, too,” Amarillo senior Hadassa Perez said.
THIS Matters is a series of discussion panels that seeks to address immediate or unanticipated issues affecting our campus community. By connecting leaders with diverse perspectives, THIS Matters provides a safe space for the Baylor community to share ideas and enhance each other’s understanding of complex topics.
LatinX Coalition is a group of Latino student leaders committed to fostering unity and inclusion among the Latino community. The LatinX Coalition meets every other Thursday night in the SUB.