Susan Reed, managing attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, spoke Thursday about topics ranging from the history of immigration law to systems of white dominance to a crowd of about 40 students.
Reed prefaced the meeting by addressing her experience in the field and how she would use this as a tool to inform the audience throughout her talk.
“I can only give you my perspective which comes from my experience,” Reed said. “What I can promise you is every fact I’m going to tell you about the law or about a case I've worked on or what I've experienced is true.”
Before moving into a question-and-answer session with audience members, Reed gave a brief presentation surrounding the history of the immigration system in the United States. According to Reed, the modern immigration system is rooted in an attempt to preserve white dominance in the country.
“Preservation of white supremacy, of white dominance, has always been and continues to be both an explicit and implicit goal of the U.S. immigration system,” Reed said. “Racism does not decline as time passes — it fluidly adjusts and aligns with prevailing political interests and that’s really something you can see as you trace the history of our immigration policy.”
During her presentation, Reed addressed the evolution of struggle that the immigration system has caused from the Civil War to the present day. Reed also said the problem has become more imminent since President Donald Trump took office.
“The system has always been bad,” Reed said. “Even the (Obama) administration made some errors in judgment. But this new administration has really weaponized the immigration system around larger goals of sending the message that white dominance will be preserved.”
Mentioning the common question surrounding the solution to the immigration problem, Reed said the thought process behind immigration must be fundamentally reconsidered to understand the extent of the subject in the U.S.
“Somebody is always going to ask me, ‘What is the solution to the problem?’” Reed said. “I always like to offer the idea that people simply move. Migration is not a problem to be solved — migration is a part of human existence. Saying ‘How are we going to solve the problem of immigration? We can solve it with walls or militarization of the border,’ it's sort of like saying we have a hunger problem in America (so) how can we get people to stop needing to eat.”
During a question-and-answer portion, Reed emphasized the difficulty of working in the field of immigration law, where she is responsible for overseeing the reunification of children separated from their families. According to Reed, it can be damaging for children to reunite with their parents after being split up.
“The children are going back different,” Reed said. “I would also say another really bad consequence is that the government took children that were accompanied and stuck them into its existing system for unaccompanied immigrant children.”
LSA senior Lisa Garcia said before the discussion she hoped it would offer information and resources to help aid and inform the immigration issue in the country.
“I'm actually really interested in immigration rights and immigrant communities in Ann Arbor,” Garcia said. “If anything, I hope to get resources on how we can get involved to promote immigrants rights in Michigan.”
Kinesiology junior Grant Floto echoed the importance of giving students information on how to get involved in the cause. He said the student voices are essential to addressing the concern of immigration in the country.
“I think it's important for us as students especially and young people our age to understand the impact this can have on the future and families and younger kids and how we have a voice,” Floto said. “It's important for us to work together to make meaningful impacts and especially with voting and everything coming up, it's obviously really important for us to be knowledgeable about these things in this climate.”