Mesa College professors share opinions over immigration issue

Raymond Naval

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After a small introduction, Professor Charles Zappia approached the podium in front of a soon-to-be emotional crowd.

“You could be American by choice,” he said at the beginning of his 15-minute presentation.

He was alluding to the day settlers from Europe took over a land inhabited by Native Americans and declared themselves citizens of their new country.

Zappia was one of four panelists sharing his opinions on illegal immigration that has brought about acts of protest throughout the United States. The event took place in Room G101 on April 27.

He went on to discuss the history of America’s general feelings toward the issue beginning in 1886, when the Statue of Liberty was constructed. Its torch was meant to act as a beacon for all the ships coming into Ellis Island. Just four years later, a newspaper editor shared his feelings about the arriving citizens.

“The floodgates are open. The sewer is choked. Europe is vomiting.”

Zappia then continued to shed light on a heavily revised and extended bill called the National Act, which provided the first steps to becoming an American. The National Act of 1790 only allowed aliens who were “free” and “white” to become citizens. This prevented slaves, many women, and Asians from becoming citizens.

The Act in 1870 eventually allowed people of African descent to apply for citizenship in America. However, Asians were still excluded.

The 1924 Act only allowed 150,000 immigrants to live in the United States-over two-thirds of which were of Anglo-Saxon origin.

It wasn’t until 1965 when, in light of the civil rights movement, former President Lyndon B. Johnson passed an Act to abolish the one passed in 1790.

Zappia concluded by saying, “Though American policies have changed [over time], American opinions remained consistent.”

For a more visual presentation Professor Cesar Lopez displayed his students’ art projects, depicting their feelings toward the issue. He spent his time recommending the movie “Alambrista” which is about a Mexican man moving to the U.S. in order to support his family.

Professor Carl Luna discussed why there are so many illegal immigrants risking their lives crossing the border, and the politics behind the proposed illegal immigration law.

Over the last 20 years, “illegal immigration more than doubled,” he said.

Causes of this include the “peso crash” during 1994 and 1995, which made many Mexicans look to the U.S. for their financial needs. The agriculture market in Mexico had also become saturated, pushing farmers to go north of the border for job opportunities.

Luna believed that the “dot-com boom” of the late-90s, a time that saw many millionaires created overnight, seemed intriguing to those outside the borderlines as well.

Whatever the reason, Luna says the U.S. averages about 500,000 immigrants a year.

When the dot-com boom ended, uneasiness came about over the illegal aliens. Major corporations, especially Enron, crashed, and the economy began to suffer. This caused what Luna referred to as “middle class angst” where people were afraid of losing their financial stability and “tended to look for blame on others.”

Most recently, the events of September 11 have caused fear among many Americans and have perpetuated the anxiety towards illegal immigration.

But if all of those reasons played a role in the newly proposed law, why have legislators chosen to push for it this year at this time? The answer, Luna believes, is because of the upcoming midterm elections. He claims terrorism is not strong enough of an issue anymore, and it deters attention away from all of the political scandals that has happened in the past few months.

Luna says that the politicians “may rush through a bad law” as a temporary means of ending the matter.

The Dream Act was brought to light by Professor Cynthia Rico, a bill that could’ve allowed young, undocumented students to work their way to becoming a legal citizen by either graduating from college or serve two years of military service. However, the bill stalled because of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

As for the May 1 boycott, Rico had chosen to skip work that day. And the four professors would not penalize those who didn’t show up to class.

When microphones were handed to the students, emotions began to envelop the room.

“I just think it’s unfair,” one student said.

“Honestly, I’m scared,” said another.

Questions and comments from the audience lasted over an hour after the presentation had ended. Some statements even drew an applause. The fears and concerns of the decidedly immigrant crowd were evident in that time.

What the students yearned for were answers, and the professors had none. All they could provide was their insight and knowledge. The closest they could come to a solution was a tongue-in-cheek response by Rico.

“We just need to tear down this world and start all over.”

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