As the political frenzy rages over Arizona's crackdown on immigration, scholars and state officials gathered to elucidate the complexities of immigration policy at a national conference held at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law on Friday.
Organized by ASU law professor Carissa Hessick, "The Role of States in Immigration Policy and Enforcement" featured immigration experts from around the nation, lecturing on the historical and socioeconomic facets of Mexican immigration as well as its legal and political intricacies.
"The College of Law held this conference in order to provide our students with access to research from leading experts in the field, and to promote rational dialogue on this issue," said Hessick.
Sandra Day O'Connor prefaced the event with a brief introduction over a video feed, highlighting the importance of fact in the immigration debate and apologizing for not being able to attend in person. Hessick followed with an overview of SB 1070, as the bill was at the heart of much of the day's legal discourse.
Douglas Massey, professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton, gave the keynote address, "How Arizona Became Ground Zero in the Nation's War on Immigrants." His lecture examined data documenting trends and factors of Mexican migration since the 1930s, compiled from the Mexican Migration Project, a research initiative he co-founded in 1982. He reasons that the U.S. policy has historically failed to take the facts of Mexican migration into account.
"U.S. immigration policy has very little to do with an actual understanding of immigration a lot more to do with domestic politics," said Massey. "And the Mexico-U.S. border becomes a stage on which American fears, hopes, aspirations and insecurities get projected."
State representatives David Lujan (D-Phoenix) and John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) joined Arizona Attorney General's Office Senior Litigator Cameron Holmes to conclude the conference in a roundtable discussion, answering queries from both the panel of national law scholars and the audience. While Lujan and Kavanagh underscored their respective sides of the SB 1070 bill, Holmes asserted America's need to focus on Mexico's drug war over illegal immigration, and the audience applauded him for it.
Approximately 175 people attended the event, held in Armstrong Hall on the Tempe Campus, including university students, attorneys and members of the public.