February 2007 Archives

By Allison Adrian, PhD. candidate at the University of Minnesota's School of Music, IHRC Affiliate

While religious freedom is thought of as the primary appeal for immigrants who set their sights on the United States in the 17th century, recent immigration seems to have less to do with religious choice and more to do with political asylum or economic opportunity. How much does religion matter in the current process of immigration to the United States? How does religion factor in to the process of making the U.S. home?

What's in a name?

By David LaVigne, PhD candidate in History at the University of Minnesota, IHRC Affiliated Faculty

A popular idea often heard about the United States’ most famous port of immigration, Ellis Island, is that immigrants commonly had their family names changed there. This, however, is a myth: inspection agents at Ellis Island and other ports of entry rarely changed immigrants’ names. For immigrants to be admitted to the United States, they needed detailed documentation that proved their identity. These papers were filled out in the country of emigration—often by professional clerks—and adhered to the spelling patterns of the local language. Passenger ships used the travel documents to compile accurate passenger lists at European ports of debarkation. If all this were not enough, Ellis Island employed hundreds of interpreters who interrogated immigrants in their native languages. In short, immigrants were likely to begin their lives in the United States with their names spelt correctly. (American Names)

The Erosion of Immigrant Rights

by Katherine Fennelly, Professor
Humphrey H. Institute of Public Affairs
University of Minnesota
IHRC Affiliate

The rights of immigrants –both authorized and unauthorized—have steadily eroded as the result of actions and policies of the US Department of Homeland Security.

Unauthorized immigrants
In the absence of meaningful immigration reform the Bush Administration has recently begun selectively targeting unauthorized immigrants (individuals without legal visas). The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has described “Operation Return to Sender? as a program to arrest individuals who have missed deportation hearings or returned to the US after having been deported, but many of those arrested in well-publicized raids do not fit this profile. Instead, some appear to have been randomly selected on the basis of their appearance. The example of Joel Baltazar Reyes was cited in an article in the San Bernadino Reporter. http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_5148968 He was walking down a street in Pomona, California when he was stopped and asked if he had immigration documents. Because he had no papers, he was arrested and deported to Mexico the following day. Furthermore, among those individuals detained, and later released in raids on Swift meat processing plants several weeks ago were permanent residents and citizens who ‘looked Latino’.

By Louis Mendoza, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chicano Studies at the University of Minnesota. IHRC Affiliated Faculty.

Last fall’s triumph at the polls by Democrats signaled possible action on a number of legislative fronts that had been stalled by a Republican Party divided against itself. Among the many issues which people hope to see meaningful action taken on is comprehensive immigration reform. Early indicators seem to suggest that despite the combination of a Democratic majority and a president favoring action on immigration, the topic will continue to lend itself to divisive politics among political representatives in Washington and around the nation.

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