As caravan creates national debate, local group to host public conversation on immigration

photo by: Associated Press

Migrant men wait in line to receive food handouts, in Tapanatepec, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

As a migrant caravan from Central America moves northward and the national immigration debate intensifies, one group would like to prompt a conversation at the local level.

On Thursday, the University of Kansas Latin American Graduate Organization will host a panel discussion, “Let’s Talk About Immigration.” The event is open to the public and the panel will include four local experts on immigration and will facilitate a conversation about immigration between the panelists and the audience, according to the event announcement.

LAGO president Melania Piedra-Barrera said that having panelists share their knowledge and experience with attendees to help them better understand what is happening is especially important given current events related to immigration.

“I think it’s a very current and very important conversation for us,” Piedra-Barrera said.

The panelists will discuss the current state of immigration, with one topic being how recent government policies and decisions have affected Latin American communities in their countries of origin and in the United States, according to the announcement. Other discussion topics will include undocumented youth, human rights and immigration legislation.

The four panelists will be Kansas City-based immigration attorney Jesús Guereca, KU anthropology professor Brent Metz, KU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Director Marta Caminero-Santangelo, and KU political science professor Gary Reich.

The event comes as a group of thousands of people fleeing violence and poverty in countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador slowly approaches the southern border. The caravan began making its way north from Honduras about a month ago, and the main group is expected to reach the U.S. border in coming weeks, according to national media reports. In response to the caravan, President Donald Trump recently deployed thousands of U.S. troops to the border and issued a proclamation restricting the locations where migrants can make asylum claims.

Piedra-Barrera said that LAGO originally planned the talk this summer, when the Trump administration’s controversial family-separation policy was causing children to be separated from their parents at the border. Since then, Piedra-Barrera said that additional events, including the current migration of people from Central America and changes to the asylum process, will add to the scope of the conversation.

She said they hope to engage many people in the conversation because immigration to the United States will continue, and it’s important to better understand how policy changes directly affect people.

“People coming to this country in diverse types of immigration status, that’s not going to stop,” Piedra-Barrera said. “And we have to think of the people like real people.”

“Let’s Talk About Immigration” will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in The Jay event space on level one of the Kansas Union, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd.


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