Illegal Immigration, DACA Discussed At Immigration Solutions Panel

By: Gabriella Pinos/Opinion Director


With moderator Kurt Volker, former U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, at the helm, the selected panelists sought to find solutions for the over 70 million displaced immigrants around the world, specifically for those seeking refuge in the U.S.

Ambassadors, professors and immigration experts alike gathered at State of the World 2020 on Thursday, Jan. 9 to discuss global migration.

“We have a [legal and moral] obligation to find out whether people who come seeking protection in America’s arms, whether they have a claim under the law,” said Elisa Massimino, Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Chair in Human Rights at Georgetown University Law Center, regarding refugees. “Right now, we are not doing that.” 

Peter Skerry and Juan Carlos Gomez discuss immigration. Gerard Albert III/PantherNOW

Illegal immigration was one of the top talking points throughout the discussion, especially the current situation on the southern border. Juan Carlos Gómez, director of the Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic at the FIU College of Law, said that this kind of “irregular” immigration only exists because countries fail to anticipate it. 

“In the countries where we see most immigration to the U.S. at the moment, we see problems that we should have anticipated. But it’s almost like we have covered our eyes, and Europe is in the same situation,” he said.

Anne Richard, an adjunct professor for the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, said that the U.S. has been a leader against exploitative migration such as human trafficking and smuggling. But despite the country’s efforts to manage this type of migration, this hasn’t been occurring.

“Instead, what we’ve seen has happened is too much fearmongering and the idea that migrants are automatically criminals, that they’re somehow a threat to us,” said Richard.

Gómez also said that the limits the Trump administration has placed on immigration are “self-destructive.”

“We are hurting our commercial immigration, we’re disincentivizing people coming to the U.S. as foreign students because there is not a future for you,” said Gómez. “You might not even be able to finish your studies because if there is another situation where we start barring people or we create an anti-immigrant environment, you have no future.”

The panel then discussed ways to fix the current immigration system under the Trump administration, much of which revolves around determining which individuals should be welcome in America and other regions around the world. 

“[The United States] needs to deal with commercial immigration as it helps our economy on one side, and we need to understand that individuals, on something like a merit system, could come to the U.S., but not using the same processes that we have now because they don’t work,” said Gómez.

Fully funding immigration courts and fighting for just due process is another way to seek fairness for immigrants from countries such as Haiti and Nicaragua, who currently have to apply for Temporary Protected Status, according to Gómez. 

Peter Skerry, professor at the Department of Political Science at Boston College, stressed the importance of understanding the complex nature of immigration around the world.

“The people who come up from Central America, or other parts of the world who are migrating to Europe, have complicated and mixed motives, which is why… we have to do due diligence to make sure we find out what those motives are,” he said.

The session also touched on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and its 700,000 recipients, some of which attend FIU. Massimino claimed it failed to alleviate the many pressures on the broken U.S. immigration system. 

Even so, she said the narrative behind DREAMers, and immigrants in general, has been changing for the better in recent years.

“I do think there is a core consensus in the country and even in the Congress that these mostly kids still, but young people, are an assent to the United States and ought to be protected,” said Massimino.

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