Immigration and What It Means to be An American

SALEM, Mass., October 9, 2016 — The students’ eyes were glued to the speakers at the recent “Pizza and Politics” session on September 28, 2016 where professors of political science and sociology uncovered the United States’ dark past of banished immigrants and the racialized hierarchy many citizens have become accustomed to, but not comfortable with.

Cynthia Lynch, the Director of Civic Engagement on campus, coordinated with professors and students a number of events on campus meant to start conversations about race relations, immigration, ballot questions, and why being a registered voter matters.

Lynch attempted to hand out voting registration forms, but found it unnecessary — all the students in the room identified as registered voters.

“You all are so good,” Lynch said.

Professor Dan Mulcare addresses the students attending the Pizza and Politics session on September 28, 2016 in the Ellison Campus Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. room. Eating their pizza, the students get the “run-down” of each 2016 Presidential candidate’s stances on immigration and race relations, the topic of this Pizza and Politics session. (Salem State Reports Photo/Hannah Johnson)

Katahia Morales, a Latina student attending the session, stood and shared her own story about coming to the United States. Morales said she crossed over the border in the 1990s as a child, “coming to America was much easier back then.”

“My biggest fear was losing my parents,” she added. “A lot of families were split up.”

Dan Mulcare, professor of Political Science and a speaker at the event, explained that in the 1990s sanctuary cities began to pop up.

“These cities treat immigrants the same as any other American citizen; they can even try to protect them from being taken away from the police,” Professor Mulcare said.

Morales recalled that the people she knew who weren’t yet legal citizens (living outside of sanctuary cities) could be taken away at night by police, then sent to another state far away to be deported.

“It’s a very bad thing — to take kids away from their parents — [law enforcement] doesn’t know they’re traumatizing them for life,” she said.

In 2015, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE) reported the US had deported 146,132 people who had emigrated into the country illegally from Mexico.

Dan Delgado, professor of Sociology and a speaker at the event, explained that deportation of immigrants wasn’t a new idea. The United States has been deporting immigrants since 1790, and since has written laws that racialize citizenship.

“Race and citizenship are intertwined based on the color of skin,” said Delgado, “and many assume people aren’t American if they’re not white.”

Delgado’s research was extensive; he interviewed young adults of Latin American descent and asked them if they believed others viewed them as true American citizens.

His conclusion was somber: “In reality, many non-whites believe if they don’t look Anglo, they won’t be perceived as American. These people know they’ll never be accepted.”

Students and faculty gathered in the Martin Luther King Jr. room in the Ellison Campus Center at Salem State University for “Pizza and Politics” on September 28, 2016. Griffin Powell, Salem State alumni, and Cynthia Lynch, Dir. Of Civic Engagement, grab a slice of pizza before the discussion on the 2016 presidential candidate’s policies on immigration and race relations. (Salem State Reports Photo/Hannah Johnson)