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A Migrant’s Tale of Struggle, Survival and Resistance

A conference highlighting the unique challenges of Central Americans who migrate to Mexico and the United States drew students, scholars and activists to UCLA Luskin to share knowledge and encourage more holistic and human portrayals of the refugees. The Jan. 30-31 conference featured panelists from the United States, Mexico and Guatemala, including UCLA faculty experts affiliated with the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), one of the event’s sponsors. Sociology Professor Cecilia Menjívar delivered opening and closing remarks at the multilingual, interdisciplinary conference. Chicana/o Studies Professor Leisy Abrego said critics of immigration reform who wonder why the United States should take responsibility for sheltering asylum seekers often fail to acknowledge that the U.S. incited much of the gang violence in Central America, specifically in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Amid negative rhetoric portraying Central Americans as criminals or helpless victims, she said, “we always erase, at least in the main discourse, the role of the United States in creating all of this.” Juan Herrera, assistant professor of geography, shared his personal experiences as a dark-skinned Latino in a community known for anti-indigenous sentiments to bring a human face to the economic, political and social struggles faced by Central American migrants. “[In] our current neoliberal economy, migrants are valued solely for their cheap labor without adequately perceiving them as human beings who construct social relationships,” he said. LPPI was one of several UCLA entities sponsoring the conference, including two student-run organizations, the Central American Isthmus Graduate Association and Union Centroamericana de UCLA. — Bryanna Ruiz and Amado Castillo

 

Latinx Conference Seeks to Break Down Borders

The student-led Latinx Caucus at UCLA Luskin collaborated with the Council on Social Work Education to host the 17th Annual Latinx Community Conference: Breaking Down Borders, Más Allá de la Frontera. The April 27 event brought together social services professionals and scholars to discuss issues facing the Latinx community, focusing specifically on immigration. “Immigration permeates every level of service, and without considering it holistically while also considering it within our specialties, we risk taking on a limited understanding of this complex social concern,” said MPP candidate Kassandra Hernandez, one of several student organizers. The event started with a blessing circle, followed by an address by Dean Gary Segura. Beth Caldwell MSW ’02, a professor at Southwestern Law School, gave the keynote address. Caldwell’s most recent research explores the consequences of deportation to Mexico with an emphasis on deportees who grew up in the United States. The daylong conference covered a wide spectrum of topics relating to the experiences of the Latinx community. Experts led workshops on mental health, educational barriers, domestic violence, LGBTQ issues, and the deportation of immigrant youth and families. Conference attendees enjoyed entertainment by the Mariachi de Uclatlán group during lunch and Changüí Majadero during the evening networking reception. Historically, Social Welfare students have taken the lead on organizing the community conference; this year, the scope was broadened to encourage full participation by Public Policy and Urban Planning students, as well.

Conference photo gallery available on Flickr:

Latinx Conference 2019


Diaz Explores Repercussions of National Emergency Over Border Wall

Sonja Diaz, director of the UCLA Luskin-based Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle about the potential political repercussions of declaring a national emergency to secure funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, an action that President Trump is contemplating. Declaring an emergency would allow Trump to secure funding for the wall without congressional approval. This action may please Trump’s current base; but it could also benefit Democrats by ending the government shutdown triggered by the budget battle over border security while allowing them to keep the campaign against the wall alive. Diaz commented on the impact that building the wall may have on Trump’s chances of reelection. “In 2020, states like Arizona and Texas [with surging Latino turnout] are going to be critical,” she said. “This is going to be very impactful on who they choose on that ballot.”


Akee Pens Op-Ed on Historical Echoes of Trump’s Border Policies

Randall Akee, associate professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin, wrote an opinion article about the federal government’s family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, noting, “It’s on each of us to realize that what we’re seeing is history repeating itself.” Akee called the current policy unjust, ill-conceived and inhumane, and likened it to the era of American Indian boarding schools, when “the U.S. government also separated children from parents — often under the guise of improving safety and opportunities for these children.” That separation “often resulted in death, disease and deprivation,” Akee wrote in the Houston Chronicle op-ed, adding, “The Trump administration’s actions in 2018 aren’t, unfortunately, all that different from historical actions taken by the United States toward its indigenous peoples over the last 150 years.”

Leap Refutes Trump’s Claim that ICE Liberated Towns from MS-13

The tweets of Donald Trump are not known for factual accuracy, and Jorja Leap of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare told PolitiFact that his recent claims about ICE “liberating” towns from MS-13 and other gangs are an “outrageous” example of his tendency to exaggerate. “This is hyperbolic and misleading language,” said Leap, who is also director of the Health and Social Justice Partnership at UCLA Luskin. “Liberation is usually the terminology of military forces — as in, the Allies liberated France from the Nazis.”


 

S.F. Chronicle: Trump Is Exaggerating Threat of MS-13, Leap Says

In its coverage of the Trump administration’s claims that its policies prevent members of the Salvadoran gang MS-13 from entering the United States to commit crimes, the Chronicle turned to Jorja Leap of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, who has studied MS-13 and other gangs. In reality, MS-13’s threat in Los Angeles, where the gang was born three decades ago, “is probably the lowest it has ever been,” Leap said. Constantly citing the danger of MS-13, as Trump has done, could backfire, helping MS-13 in recruiting. Leap said, “Along with being erroneous, he is giving them oxygen. Donald Trump is acting as a one-man publicity band for MS-13.” Leap also contributed to a recent visual storytelling piece about MS-13 by the New York Times. And she previously spoke to the L.A. Daily News about the search of a new Los Angeles police chief.