UCI News

Obama to announce action on immigration

November 20, 2014

President Barack Obama is expected to announce at 8 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, Nov. 20, that he will use his executive authority to expand temporary protections to millions of undocumented immigrants. The following UC Irvine experts are available to comment:

Leo Chavez, professor of anthropology, has studied immigration for more than 25 years. He has conducted a number of studies on immigrant families, motives for migration, labor market participation, social integration and access to medical services. He has also written a book about the lives of undocumented immigrants in American society and another book on the ways immigrants are represented in the media and popular discourse in the U.S. Contact Chavez at 949-824-4054 or lchavez@uci.edu.

Chavez’s statement: “Relief for the parents of U.S. citizens is an important step but should be combined with comprehensive immigration reform. Ensuring that children grow up in families, with parents, is a good thing for society. It helps ensure that children grow up with the maximum chance for success in school, work and social integration. It’s hard to complain when children are left on their own because their families have been split apart by deportation and they must face life’s challenges alone.”

Jennifer Lee, professor of sociology, is an expert on immigration, race relations and culture. She studies the growing impact of immigration, interracial marriage and America’s multiracial population on U.S. society. She’s the author of Civility in the City, co-author of The Diversity Paradox and co-editor of Asian American Youth: Culture, Identity & Ethnicity, which looks at the emerging presence of Asian Americans in pop culture, from import car racing to Hollywood. She’s the recipient of a Russell Sage Foundation grant to study how immigrants and their second-generation children define and measure success, focusing on Mexicans, Chinese and Vietnamese. Contact Lee at jenlee@uci.edu.

Lee’s statement: “I’m eagerly awaiting President Obama’s executive decision and, like many others, am hopeful that he will ease deportations and provide paths to citizenship for the millions of undocumented migrants. What people do not realize is that there is a sizable undocumented Asian population who will be affected by his announcement.”

Rubén G. Rumbaut, professor of sociology, pursues research on children and young adults raised in immigrant families of diverse nationalities and socioeconomic classes. Since 1991, he has co-led the landmark Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study, following subjects from dozens of nationalities in South Florida and Southern California as they become adults. From 2002 to 2008, he co-directed the Immigration & Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles study, which focused on generation 1.5 and second-generation young adults of Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and additional ethnic origins, compared with third-generation peers. Contact Rumbaut at rrumbaut@uci.edu.

Rumbaut’s statement: “Comprehensive immigration reform has been stymied now for decades; even the DREAM Act has languished for over a dozen years. (A Republican filibuster in the Senate during the 2010 lame-duck session of Congress prevented its becoming law, despite the votes of 56 senators.) The last Congress and the new one coming in, now with Republican majorities in both houses, will ensure that no action is taken on the pending Senate bill passed a year and a half ago. Meanwhile, millions of people have been deported (more than 2 million under the Obama administration alone), hundreds of thousands of families are severed yearly, and well over 400,000 people (overwhelmingly working people who have never violated penal statutes or committed violent crimes) are held in indefinite detention without rights in hundreds of detention centers, private prisons and jails under contracts with [Immigration & Customs Enforcement] throughout the country, awaiting likely deportation. The costs of all this – to the immigrants themselves, to their families, to the U.S. economy and to U.S. taxpayers – is enormous and needless. Those are the circumstances in which President Obama’s pending and long-delayed announcement will be made. It will likely provide temporary and provisional relief for as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. More than 6 million others are unlikely to find any relief at all … until Congress at last acts. How the nation reacts in the days and months ahead will define, in some important respects, what this ‘nation of immigrants’ has become.”

Louis DeSipio, professor of political science and Chicano/Latino studies, is an expert on Latino politics, immigration policy and immigrant political incorporation. His research extends to public policies on immigrant settlement, naturalization and voting rights. He also has analyzed the long-term consequences of the legalization provisions of the 1986 Immigration Reform & Control Act. Director of the UCI Center for the Study of Democracy, DeSipio is the author of Counting on the Latino Vote: Latinos as a New Electorate and has surveyed Latino political values, attitudes and behaviors. In addition, he can address questions on survey methodologies and the validity of polling results. Contact DeSipio at 949-285-1968 or ldesipio@uci.edu.

Anita Casavantes Bradford, assistant professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies, is the author of The Revolution Is for the Children: The Politics of Childhood in Havana & Miami, 1959-1962, which discusses how children are used symbolically and literally in immigration politics and international relations. She’s a faculty adviser to UCI DREAMers, a campus group for undocumented students who are attending college under AB 540. She is consistently a trusted voice on immigration issues and is fond of saying, “Human beings cannot be illegal; they can simply be undocumented.” Contact Casavantes Bradford at acasavan@uci.edu.

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