by Sarah Lipkis
|For a pin, contact Paola Piers-Torres
Immigration has always been a central topic in American politics, especially during election years. When you think of immigration, you might think about the recent laws that are being passed in states like Texas, Georgia, and Arizona. You might think about the proposed wall that would stretch from California to Texas along the U.S-Mexico border. You might think about the arguments you have heard regarding illegal immigrants who come to America and “commit crimes” and “steal American jobs.” But how often do you think about the issue of deportation?
Paola Piers-Torres BC ’12 would like to give the issue of deportation the attention it deserves. For her senior thesis, Paola researched the effects of deportation on families and looked into the Obama Administration’s response to deportation and surrounding issues. According to Paola, deportation is responsible for “a lot of causalities”: due to deportation, families are split apart, students who were brought over as children are considered criminals, and people who have lived in United States for the majority of their lives are being arrested.
the number of undocumented immigrants being deported
has increased under President Obama.
Currently, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is responsible for all issues pertaining to immigration and deportation. The idea behind deportation is to get rid of murderers, drug dealers, and other criminals who came into this country illegally by sending them back to their countries of origin. However, the ICE has a quota of about 400,000 deportations per year, which causes undocumented immigrants who have no violent criminal record to be unjustly targeted. If are interested in learning more about the issue, Paola recommended the Frontline documentary Lost in Detention.
“People tend to be liberal on immigrants, but conservative about immigration,” says Paola. Through her activism, Paola is hoping to teach people about the negative effects of deportation. According to her, many people either do not care about the issue or simply are unaware of the facts. For example, when most people think of illegal immigration, they tend to only think about immigrants coming from Mexico. In recent years, however, migration from Mexico has slowed due to an improving economy and tightened security at the border. The issue of immigration has “become more external vs. internal,” meaning that instead of concentrating on immigrants coming from abroad, the ICE now focuses on undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. This includes people who have lived here for their entire lives, such as children who were brought over by their parents.
Paola noted that, while Congress gives the ICE its funding, it is the President who creates the immigration policy. During the 2008 presidential election, President Obama promised to reform immigration policy. However, according to many critics, the President has done the opposite of what he has promised. Though the ICE’s current policy was originally established under President Bush, the number of undocumented immigrants being deported has increased under President Obama.
With a mother who emigrated from Cuba as a young child and paternal grandparents that came to the U.S after WWII, the issue of deportation hits close to home for Paola and one she is passionate about. In an effort to bring attention to the issue of deportation and immigrant reform, Paola and her mother, Nena Torres (director of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago and a former informal adviser to the President during the 2008 campaign), have designed buttons with the image of the President and the words “Yes You Can! … Stop Deportation” to wear during the President’s upcoming commencement speech. Paola and her mother hope that wearing the pins during the Barnard graduation will help give the issue of deportation the attention it deserves.
|UPDATED: Barnard seniors follow-through to spread
awareness on deportation issue during commencement.
Paola plan has been criticized by fellow students who either feel that women’s issues should be the focal point of the President’s commencement visit as well as by those who believe that graduation should not be turned into a political spectacle. Paola has responded to this criticism by stating that she is not trying to detract from the President’s show of support for women’s issues, but is just trying to bring attention to an issue that goes oftentimes goes unnoticed. Paola has decided that if asked not to wear the button, she will not walk during the graduation ceremony. With the support of her parents, Paola feels very strongly about wearing the button and the larger issue it represents. She hopes that other Barnard students who also feel passionately about the issue will be interested in wearing the button during graduation as well.
If you wish to wear a button during graduation or have any other questions for Paola, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Lipkis is a junior at Barnard and Photography editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.