Posts

Now or Never for Immigration Reform? Congressman from Texas opens LPPI webinar by expressing optimism that progress can be achieved with Democrats in power in Washington — if they act quickly

By Kassandra Hernandez and Les Dunseith

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas sees Democrats in power in Washington, D.C., and thinks the time may finally have arrived for comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policy.

“It’s not very often that Democrats have control of the presidency and both chambers of the Congress,” Castro said during a May 4 webinar hosted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. “There’s a real opportunity here to pass comprehensive immigration reform and put 11 million undocumented folks — many of whom are ‘Dreamers’ or others, like their parents, who have been here for generations — on a path to citizenship.”

Castro, who introduced one of four immigration-related bills currently making their way through the political process in Washington, knows it won’t be easy, given the narrow Democratic majorities in both houses and longstanding GOP opposition to immigration reform that includes citizenship. Still, waiting too long could doom the effort.

As the 2022 midterm elections draw closer, elected officials will become “very cautious about the votes that they take,” Castro noted. “So, there’s got to be a lot of momentum and a big push to get immigration reform done this year.”

Castro’s comments came during a 10-minute live interview with webinar moderator Russell Contreras, a justice and race reporter at Axios, that set the tone for a panel discussion with scholars and political experts focusing on the challenges and opportunities for U.S. immigration reform.

During the interview, Castro spoke about why immigration policy reform is so important to him. He represents a district in the San Antonio area that is home to many Mexican Americans like himself.

“In our community, there’s an incredible sense of fairness, there’s obviously an incredible sense of family,” said Castro, whose mother is a renowned community activist and whose twin brother is former presidential candidate Julian Castro.

“There is a permanent class of conservative politicians … who want to use the immigration issue as a way to scare Americans and make them think that there is a lot of brown people who are going to come into the country and harm them,” Castro said. “But you see Mexican American communities being very favorable toward giving immigrants a path to citizenship because they understand that experience. To them, [an immigrant] was their parent or their grandparent. So, when they hear all of the fear-mongering, most of the time, they don’t buy into that.”

Castro said he hopes an umbrella bill that includes comprehensive immigration reform can be passed during this session of Congress, although it has not yet come to a vote. He noted that two other immigration bills have already made it through the House, however, and he urged the U.S. Senate to move forward with that legislation.

Cecilia Menjívar, a professor of sociology at UCLA who is an expert on immigration issues, argued that such piecemeal reform probably has a greater chance of success. Although the current social and political environment is unlike any in recent history, she said systemic barriers are likely to continue to impede sweeping immigration reform efforts.

Joining Menjívar on the virtual panel were Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Los Angeles (CHIRLA), and Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute. All the speakers agreed that the national stance must recognize the complexities of the issue beyond border security and militarization.

Immigration reform is deeply interconnected with labor rights, access to education, health care and violence in other countries, they noted.

“You can legalize the people in the U.S., but if you don’t deal with the system that keeps us out and kicks us out, then you are not doing service to our community,” Salas said.

The so-called border crisis is actually a regional international policy problem, Selee said. “If you have lots of people coming in an irregular fashion, we need to rethink how we facilitate a legal path to immigration.”

Salas called for an urgent change in enforcement. “The detention system is a for-profit system,” she said. “Too many corporations [make] money off of the detention of our people.”

U.S. immigration policy also needs to account for the economic contributions made by the millions of undocumented workers throughout the country, Selee said.

Menjívar cautioned that immigrants should be recognized in a manner that avoids “reducing them to a dollar sign,” noting the many “social and cultural contributions [immigrants] have made to this country over decades.”

Selee pointed out that almost half of immigrants today have college degrees, representing potential talent that can help catalyze economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.

“Unlock that potential, [and] it would fit in really well in a moment where we are trying to recover economically,” he said.

View a recording of the webinar

 

Sangalang on Culturally Sensitive Mental Health Care for Refugees

Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Cindy Sangalang spoke to TimesOC for a report on the lack of culturally sensitive mental health care services for Orange County’s Vietnamese and Cambodian communities. Sangalang, whose research focuses on health and well-being in immigrant communities, said many Southeast Asian refugees have endured trauma at multiple points in their lives: before they migrated; when they arrived in the United States, adjusting to a new country; in the present, with a rise in deportations; and in moments throughout, amid continued socioeconomic insecurity. She added that it’s important to consider the U.S. role in the conflicts refugees fled. “For us to address the health, education and other needs of these populations, it’s really a way to think about the consequences of the war in that region and how it’s had these ripple effects, and why it’s important for us to address these needs.”

Sudanese Refugees United by Soccer

“It’s more than just a game.” Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin hosted the staff of iACT, a Los Angeles-based NGO, and players from the soccer team the organization co-created with Sudanese refugees, Darfur United. Souleyman Jassir, the cultural ambassador and goalkeeper for the team, told his story at the March 5 event. It’s one of struggle, perseverance and hope, as Souleyman was forced to flee Darfur as a young child out of fear of genocide and settled in a refugee camp in eastern Chad. “When I was a boy, all I did was run. Run away. It’s probably why I was good at soccer,” he only half-joked. Souleyman talked about losing family members and being separated from his mother for weeks, thinking he wouldn’t see her again. He was happily mistaken. Souleyman now lives in Concordia, Kansas, with his family after being relocated there through the U.S. State Department Refugee Resettlement Program and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Despite this new life and all of the challenges and opportunities brought with it, Souleyman thinks that Darfur United has never been more important. “There are people all over, from the USA to Sweden. When we can all come together to play, it represents hope and a better future for Sudan,” he explained. Darfur United is currently hosting a training camp in Los Angeles in preparation for the CONIFA World Football Cup 2020 in North Macedonia, where stateless teams from around the world will compete. — John Danly

View photos from the event, courtesy of iACT.

UCLA Luskin Welcomes 4 New Faculty for Fall 2019 Expertise of new additions includes school violence and bullying, race, immigrant health and law, and the politics of development in Latin America

By Stan Paul

Four new faculty members – three in Social Welfare and one in Urban Planning – have joined the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, expanding teaching and deepening research expertise in some of the School’s top-rated programs.

They add to the recent faculty expansion of six new hires in 2016 and nine last year, spread across UCLA Luskin’s three professional programs and its new undergraduate major.

Joining Social Welfare: Ron Avi Astor, an expert on bullying and school violence whose appointment was previously reported; Cindy Sangalang, who examines how race, migration, and culture intersect to shape health and well-being in immigrant and refugee communities; and Lee Ann Wang, whose current work looks at the intersection of immigration law and criminalization through gender and sexual violence.

Astor holds a joint appointment as professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and Sangalang and Wang have joint appointments as assistant professors in Asian American Studies.

New to Urban Planning is Assistant Professor Veronica Herrera, who studies the politics of development in global south cities, with a focus on Latin America. Her research emphasizes environmental policymaking, sustainability and water policy.

“Veronica is a big addition to our work on global cities and environmental issues in urban centers,” said Dean Gary Segura, highlighting Herrera’s work on Latin America in his announcement to the school.

Herrera, author of the award-winning 2017 book Water and Politics: Clientelism and Reform in Urban Mexico,” said she will offer an undergraduate course on the politics of water and a graduate course on urban politics, both concentrating on the global south.

The new assistant professor previously taught in the political science department at the University of Connecticut and earned her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, where she said she fell in love with California.

“It’s wonderful to be back. I am looking forward to working with folks at UCLA who are interested in sustainability, urban political change and development,” she said. Citing issues including water stress and trash crises, Herrera said she is looking forward to connecting topics she is studying in Latin American cities to “how they are unfolding in L.A.”

“We are spoiled in L.A. with amazing food, weather and beaches, but from an environmental standpoint there is a lot of work to be done,” Herrera said.

 Astor holds the Marjorie Crump Chair in Social Welfare. His work examines the role of the physical, social-organizational and cultural contexts in schools related to different kinds of bullying and school violence. Examples include sexual harassment, cyber bullying, discrimination, hate acts, school fights, emotional abuse, weapon use, and teacher/child violence, which are addressed in his most recent co-authored book, “Bullying, School Violence, and Climate in Evolving Contexts: Culture, Organization, and Time,” published in January 2019.

Bullying is such a big term that it gives us a lot of room,” said Astor, who, along with his colleagues, launched the first studies related to bullying and school violence tied to vulnerable groups such as homeless and foster children. “So being in these literatures you realize that some of the research has been more generic, so it does matter if it’s LGBTQ or if it’s military kids, or homeless or foster kids … because the dynamics are a little bit different.”

“And, because we do cross-cultural work, there’s a lot of interesting cultural comparisons within the United States but also between the United States and other places,” said Astor, whose work abroad has included Israel, China, Cameroon and Kosovo.

“Professor Astor is one of the foremost experts in the world on how to cultivate safe and nurturing schools for children around the globe,” said Professor Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin. “This research is critical to social work as schools play a major role in shaping key child outcomes.”

For Cindy Sangalang, Southern California is home. Born and raised in Long Beach, she earned her MSW degree, in 2006, and Ph.D. in Social Welfare, in 2012, at UCLA Luskin. She returns to UCLA following faculty positions in the schools of social work at Arizona State University and California State University, Los Angeles.

Sangalang’s work “fills a critical need in our work on mental health and family function, particularly in East Asian and Southeast Asian communities in the United States,” Abrams noted.

“I look at factors tied to race, migration and culture — how those factors intersect and interplay to shape different health outcomes among immigrant populations. That work really derives from years working alongside Southeast Asian communities here in Southern California,” Sangalang said. And, she explained, “When I say Southeast Asian, primarily communities that migrated from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos that were forced to migrate to the United States as a result of U.S. war in Southeast Asia.”

When students ask about her own professional “origin story,” Sangalang said she starts with her family.

“My parents immigrated from the Philippines many, many years ago, and I think coming from an immigrant family with humble beginnings really set a seed in me to be able to connect with others who are tied to that immigrant experience,” said Sangalang, who is teaching courses offered by Social Welfare and Asian American Studies in the fall quarter.

Sangalang said her appointment at UCLA “marries my passions and my interests in a really wonderful way. This is something that I really would not have even thought would be a possibility, so it is really like this dream job where I get to come back to my alma mater where I earned my MSW and my Ph.D.”

In addition to her appointment with the Department of Asian American Studies in the UCLA College, she will be affiliated with the Asian American Studies Research Center.

Lee Ann Wang comes to UCLA most recently from the University of Washington, Bothell, where she held appointments in law and public policy; women, gender and sexuality studies; and ethnic studies. She also has held visiting posts at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is an expert on legal narratives addressing the intersection of gender, immigration and violence in Asian American communities.

A key aspect of that work is the relationship between protection and punishment.

“Primarily what I look at is a series of pieces of federal legislation that were designed to ‘rescue and save’ immigrant women from gender and sexual violence, but in doing so they expanded terms of punishment that actually reinforce punishment in immigrant communities,” Wang said.

The immersive techniques of ethnographic studies are an important aspect of Wang’s research. For example, she has studied the law through the eyes of legal advocates. She also has engaged with legal service providers who not only played a role in distributing the terms of a law but were also involved in its writing. By conducting ethnographic studies in her work, Wang said her approach to the law involves looking at legal practice through legal advocates as well as service providers who were not only part of distributing the law’s terms but also a part of its own writing. “I’m arguing in part that we actually can’t understand the relationship between immigration law and criminalization without taking gender and sexuality seriously.”

Like her new colleagues, Wang has connections with Los Angeles and Southern California. She spent a number of years in L.A. working for nonprofit agencies before attending graduate school at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she earned her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in American culture. Her nonprofit work, also in the San Francisco Bay area and Detroit, included anti-violence, reentry, youth advocacy, mass transit and voting rights. As a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, she was a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at UC Berkeley’s School of Law.

Wang is teaching a Social Welfare graduate course and an undergraduate course in Asian American Studies this year.

Events

Sanctuary & Solidarity: Resisting the U.S. War on Refugees and Migrants

Join us on Friday, August 28, 2020 at 12:00pm PST for Sanctuary and Solidarity: Resisting the U.S. War on Refugees and Migrants presented by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

This convening brings together critical legal scholars, immigration attorneys, Indigenous leaders, and anti-deportation activists to offer analysis of the crisis imposed on refugees at the U.S. Mexico border and human rights violations at ICE detention facilities. Centering Indigenous and migrant-led mobilizations against U.S. border imperialism on stolen land, it foregrounds pro bono assistance, accompaniment, shelter provision, and detention resistance in solidarity with asylum seekers as sanctuary practices that prefigure decolonial and abolitionist possibilities.

Featured speakers:

Moderated by Veronika Zablotsky, Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy

 

Part of The Sawyer Seminar Sanctuary Spaces: Reworlding Humanism

 

In partnership with