For the second to last of the Latino Americans series, Saddleback College welcomed two guest speakers who discussed the history and current way of thinking about the U.S.-Mexico border and immigration, on Wednesday, May 4. The evening program featured Everard Meade of UCSD and Leo Chavez of UCI, and attracted about 75 students.
“Right now if you are following the presidential election campaigns, the meme is ‘crisis on the border,’” Meade said, before disputing the idea that the border is “somehow out of control.”
Since 2009, Mexican migration to the U.S. is negative, and 140,000 more Mexican nationals have left the United States to go back to Mexico than those who have come here, according to Meade. Since 2005, it is “net-zero,” or about even.
“There is no crisis with regards to lots of undocumented people showing up in the United States,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if people are talking about it on the left or on the right; it is just not a fact.“
In 2014 about 68,000 unaccompanied immigrant children arrived at the border on top of freight trains. The numbers of undocumented immigrants went up, but also came back down dramatically in 2014.
Meade is the director of Trans-Border Institute at UCSD spoke citing facts and data. Leo Chavez, professor of Anthropology at UCI, began with a different approach.
Migration is a basic human activity, he said.
Homo erectus walked the earth moving and settling for the same reasons people do today, he said. They thought the next place would have more food, or they were fleeing from danger. The reasons were the same: both are political-economic refugees.
Chavez went on to discuss the myths surrounding Latinos, citing Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans bringing crime. But according to Chavez, the data is overwhelmingly against this idea.
“Increased prevalence of immigrants associated with lower crime rates, the opposite of what many Americans fear,” he said, quoting the National Academy of Sciences.
Although there were two speakers and a screening of the PBS documentary “Peril and Promise: Immigration and the Immigrant experience,” almost half of the 2 hour program was a Q-and-A with students.
Saddleback student Juan Salazar participated, asking several questions. For Salazar, the topics discussed were relevant to his story.
“I grew up all my life in fear,” Salazar said. “My father didn’t have papers and he was fighting for them. He took me to work at a young age. He used to say it was because he didn’t want to hire a babysitter but I think its because if you get caught driving with a young kid they are not going to deport you.”
Salazar grew up with his father telling him about Mexico and the places he would take him after he received immigration documents. His father has been pursuing documentation for the last 10 years, hiring lawyers in the process.
“Now he is 60 and can die at any day,” he said. “What is he going to do when he goes to Mexico on a cane, he can’t leave here because if he does he loses everything.”
The Latino Americans series is produced by the American Library Association and National Endowment for the Humanities. Saddleback College librarian Ana Maria Cobos wrote the grant and organized the documentary series.
In response to the protests and riots outside the Trump rally in Costa Mesa last week, she asked campus police be present during the program.
Although the evening’s topic of immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border is relevant to the policies of some 2016 presidential candidates, the outline for what to include in the Latino Americans series was organized over a year ago.