Immigration teach-in gives campus perspectives

(THE PICKET)—The national immigration debate made its way to Shepherd University Tuesday with a teach-in in the Erma Ora Byrd Auditorium.

While GOP presidential candidates are focusing on ending illegal immigration, that is just a small part of the issue, said Dr. Aart Holtslag, panelist and professor of political science.

“There are so many myths and misperceptions about immigration, just to name the main one, the idea that the majority of immigration is undocumented or illegal, where that is the smallest percentage of immigration that happens into this country,” Holtslag said.
Noting politicians like Donald Trump have positioned themselves at the forefront of the immigration debate, Holtslag said the societal discussion on immigration is “based on myths and should be countered.”

Dr. Aart Holtslag, left, and Dr. Jacob Stump speaking during Tuesday's teach-in.
Dr. Aart Holtslag, left, and Dr. Jacob Stump speaking during Tuesday’s teach-in.

Dr. Max Guirguis, professor of political science, said migrants can boost the U.S. economy.

“Economic migrants are usually skilled young adults, with a long working life ahead of them, so they make a welcome addition to the labor force,” he said.  “One could also say economic migrants are not only desirable, but they are also necessary in industrialized countries because the economy is constantly in need of skilled workers to replenish their ever-expanding workforce.”

Guirguis noted that a steady flow of economic migrants are needed not only to replenish the workforce in nations such as Canada, Australia and Ireland, but also to support the burgeoning elderly population. In the United States, he added, immigrants make up a large chunk of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, including half of the country’s engineers.

“When you’re going to move, it is a matter of producing safety, and the ultimate questions becomes, ‘will the move make us more safe?’ People will try to move to places that not only maximize their safety, but also maximize their wages as well,” said Dr. Robert Anthony, professor of sociology, on the main push and pull factors that drive migration. Dr. Anthony listed political stability, modern infrastructure and health care, among others, as major pull factors that make a state enticing to migrants.

“Someone who is part of an imagined national community might insist that the nation shares a common language,” Dr. Jacob Stump, professor of political science, said concerning the intersection of immigration and national identity. Dr. Stump also mentioned statements from presidential candidates Trump and Carly Fiorina that English is the national language of the United States, arguing that they are viewing immigration through a nationalist lens.

“To seal the border and let the children die because we are afraid they might ruin the culture, I don’t think is a very civil approach,” Dr. Guirguis said in response to a question from the audience about immigrants affecting a country’s culture.

Dr. Holtslag added, “I think this is what we see at the moment, in the United States and in Europe, where the understanding is one of fear rather than one of the actual benefits that immigration can bring.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.