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Latino Communities in Old and New Destinations: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives to Assessing the Impact of Legal Reforms

Published by on November 12, 2013

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Latino Communities in Old and New Destinations, at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

On Friday, November 8, students, faculty, and community activists gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance Saint Petersburg Resort & Golf Club for the Latino Communities in Old and New Destinations: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives to Assessing the Impact of Legal Reforms conference. Dr. Elizabeth Aranda from the Sociology Department at USF hosted the event. Faculty from all over the country gathered to discuss and share their presentations on the inequalities Latin American citizens face in America and the growing need for immigration reform.

The conference focused on issues faced by Latin Americans living in the United States due to recent immigration policies. Panelist Kim Ebert (North Carolina State University) spoke during the third panel to discuss her research on the effects of immigration statutes. Recent immigration policies, such as 287(g), train law enforcement to identify, investigate and detain illegal immigrants. The concern with such statutes is that Latin American citizens sometimes get mistaken as being illegal immigrants. Ebert shared her reports from concerned participants that feel like ordinances like 287 (g) place excessive attention and added pressure on Latin American citizens.

Following Ebert’s presentation on recent immigration policy, Angela Stuesse from the University of South Florida discussed her research on exclusionary laws that enable law enforcement to file a Latin American citizen for deportation on the account of a minor traffic violation. It was noted that ordinances like these, while proposed to identify and deport illegal immigrants, have stirred fear within members of Latin American communities in the U.S. whom may be falsely identified or deported for minor offenses.

Ediberto Roman (Professor of Law at FIU) during his keynote presentation at the Latino Communities in Old and New Destinations conference

Ediberto Roman (Professor of Law at FIU) during his keynote presentation at the Latino Communities in Old and New Destinations conference

The conference left on a positive note with examples and future hopes of changing America’s immigration status. The hope is to secure Latin American communities throughout the country. Stuesse reported that Latin American communities have been active in pushing for immigration reform despite policies that seem to be against the Latin American community. Grassroots movements within these communities have taken shape to reform some of the current affairs of immigration policy.

One community in Georgia has made it a publicized event via text messaging whenever law enforcement sets up a checkpoint to monitor drivers’ immigration status. Concerned neighbors and friends have helped each other by sending out text message alerts whenever one driver spots a police checkpoint. This list started with a neighborhood of concerned citizens and has grown to reach a selected audience of 500,000 cell phone users in the state of Georgia. As a result police have lessened their attempts to stop drivers by decreasing their frequency of these checkpoints.

In the final discussion, keynote speakers Ediberto Román (Florida International University) and Cecilia Mejívar (Arizona State University) discussed their future vision for U.S. immigration reform. Román was overly optimistic of the future of immigration reform in this country and encouraged activists to organize and mobilize through student organizations and public discussions to inform citizens on the current immigration debate, and to further legal reform. Mejívar concluded the conference with a discussion about the current policy in place and the improvements that can be made to ensure better immigration policies for the Latin American community.

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