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Human rights, immigration policy reform are focus of NMSU conference

Making human rights an important focus of U.S. immigration policy reform is the goal of a conference to be held at New Mexico State University March 4 and 5.

Making immigration policy reform more human-rights oriented is the focus of "Immigration Reform and Human Rights on the Border," a conference March 4 and 5 at New Mexico State University sponsored by NMSU's Center for Latin American and Border Studies and the International Relations Institute. (NMSU courtesy photo)

"'Immigration Reform and Human Rights on the Border' brings together distinguished researchers and community leaders to explore issues about the human rights of immigrants and the need to make human rights a fundamental part of immigration policy reform," said Neil Harvey, professor of government and director of NMSU's Center for Latin American and Border Studies. The meeting is sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Border Studies and the International Relations Institute.

Faculty, staff, students and members of the community are invited to attend the presentations and roundtable discussions, which are free, and join in the debate during question and answer periods following each session.

In conjunction with the conference, a photographic exhibit of works by author and photojournalist David Bacon will open at the Center for Latin American and Border Studies in Nason House at 3 p.m. March 4. The exhibit, "Under the Trees," documents the lives in California of Mixtec migrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, and underscores the human element that is often marginalized in current debates about immigration.

Bacon will present the keynote address, "The Human Rights Alternative to Displacement and Criminalization," at 7 p.m. March 4, in the Anderson Hall Auditorium. Attendance is free and open to the public.

An associate editor at Pacifica News Service, Bacon also writes for The Nation, The American Prospect, The Progressive, the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. His most recent book, "Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants," was published in 2008 by Beacon Press.

Conference sessions on Friday, March 5, will provide detailed overviews of immigration policy issues, such as legalization, law enforcement, social integration of immigrants and economic development in countries with high rates of out-migration.

Sessions will also explore ways to address these issues through national immigration policy reforms that place greater emphasis on the human rights of immigrants.

Issues specific to Las Cruces and the region will be discussed, with an emphasis on ensuring that local immigrants' and residents' concerns are heard at the national level.

Another conference focus will be the role of research and teaching in reforming immigration policy: What are the best approaches for creating an immigration-focused curriculum at NMSU and other universities? At the applied level, what are NMSU faculty and students doing to help meet immigrants' needs in areas like education, employment and child protection?

On March 5, conference sessions will be in the auditorium at Anderson Hall. The meeting will open at 9 a.m. with introductory remarks.

From 9:15 to 10:15 a.m., Jan Rus and Diane Rus will give a presentation titled "Trapped Behind the Lines: Undocumented Indigenous Workers from Highland Chiapas, 2001-2010."

Jan and Diane Rus are anthropologists at the University of California-Riverside, with more than 30 years' experience conducting research in Chiapas, Mexico. They have closely documented the impacts of steadily increasing out-migration on Tzotzil-Maya communities, first to coastal coffee plantations and more recently to larger cities and the United States. Jan Rus is co-editor of the book "Mayan Lives, Mayan Utopias: the Indigenous People of Chiapas and the Zapatista Rebellion." Diane Rus is co-author of "Bordando Milpas," the life history of a Mayan woman weaver, and "Mujeres de Tierra Fria" about the Spanish-speaking women of San Cristobal de Las Casas.

From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., David R. Ayón, senior fellow and U.S. director of the Focus Mexico Project at the Leavy Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, will give a presentation titled "Overcoming Immigration Policy Failure and Enhancing Bilateral Cooperation."

Ayón is a political analyst, writer and lecturer specializing in U.S.-Mexico relations and the policy and politics of Mexican migration to the United States. He is a member of the editorial board and contributor to Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica and a contributor to eight books. Ayón has contributed essays to the op-ed and Sunday Opinion pages of the Los Angeles Times since 1983, when he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California-San Diego.

From 12:30 to 2 p.m., there will be an invitation-only lunch at Corbett Center, with keynote speaker Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, director, Institute of the Americas, University of California-San Diego. Davidow was U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and to Mexico, and served as assistant secretary of state, acting as the State Department's chief policy maker for the hemisphere. He is the author of two books: "A Peace in Southern Africa: The Lancaster Conference on Rhodesia," and "The U.S. and Mexico: The Bear and the Porcupine."

From 2:30 to 4 p.m. there will be a panel discussion on immigration-focused research, teaching and service at NMSU lead by faculty: Pat Sandau-Beckler and Monica Montoya, School of Social Work, "Immigration and Child Protection Issues on the U.S.-Mexico Border"; Alison Newby, Department of Sociology, "Immigration Detention Policies and Human Rights"; Neil Harvey, Department of Government and Center for Latin American and Border Studies, "Documenting Human Rights of Migrants on the U.S.-Mexico Border," with Youth Video documentary and NMSU student presentations.

From 4:15 to 5:30 p.m., a roundtable discussion will focus on human rights and immigration policy, opening with presentations by former Ambassador Johnny Young, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C., and Vicki Gaubeca, of the American Civil Liberties Union-N.M. Regional Center for Border Rights.

Young served as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia, the State of Bahrain, the Republic of Togo and the Republic of Sierra Leone. He was a member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Career Ambassador.

For more information contact Roberta Gran at (575) 646-7041 or rgran@ad.nmsu.edu; or Neil Harvey at (575) 646-6816, or nharvey@nmsu.edu.

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