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NMSU conference tackles social consequences of U.S. immigration policies

As the debate over U.S. immigration policy rages on, community groups along the border are working quietly to protect human rights.



Maria Hinojosa, correspondent for the PBS documentary "Lost in Detention," will be the keynote speaker on June 18 at NMSU's Immigration Policy and Human Rights conference. The conference takes place on the NMSU campus from June 17-22. (Submitted photo)

An upcoming New Mexico State University conference, Immigration Policy and Human Rights: Perspectives from Border Communities, will address how immigration policies are posing difficult challenges for border communities, policy makers and immigrants.

"We see that the lack of immigration reform at the federal level is producing negative consequences for many communities. The community should care about this conference because the immigration debate has not led to humane policy solutions," said Neil Harvey, associate professor of government at NMSU and one of the organizers of the event. "Instead, there has been a tendency toward stricter enforcement measures but without an understanding of the impact on families and border communities. This conference is an opportunity to learn about the problems and potential solutions for immigration policy in both the U.S. and Mexico. The conference also includes presentations on how violence and threats in Mexico have led many people, including journalists, to seek asylum in the United States."

The free conference takes place June 16-22 in the Corbett Center auditorium and the Nason House on the NMSU campus. NMSU and the University of New Mexico's offices of the president and the offices of the executive vice president and provost are the main conference sponsors. Co-sponsors include NMSU's College of Arts and Sciences, Center for Latin American and Border Studies, Center for International and Border Programs, Department of Government, as well as the University of Texas at El Paso.

"We hope this conference is the start of further collaborations among NMSU, UNM and UTEP on border issues that are critical to our entire region," said Wendy K. Wilkins, executive vice president and provost at NMSU. "We hope to continue collaborations by combining the work of researchers from each university in order to better educate students and the broader public about the border."

The conference will bring together scholars from New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Mexico, as well as community and human rights leaders, to discuss the social consequences of border enforcement policies, the historical aspects of immigration, human trafficking, human rights violations and asylum of exiled journalists, among other topics. Attendees also will have the opportunity to make site visits to meet with community and labor groups that are concerned with immigration.

"Attendees will meet with staff and workers of the Border Agricultural Workers Center in El Paso to discuss how immigration policies affect farm workers," Harvey said. "There also will be a meeting with members of a community organization in Chaparral, Vecinos Unidos, to reflect on the need for immigration reform and how it may be achieved."

Journalist and author Maria Hinojosa, who served as correspondent for the 2011 PBS "Frontline" documentary, "Lost in Detention" will be the keynote speaker on June 18. The documentary looks at the Obama Administration's immigration policies and conditions in detention camps. The documentary also will be screened during the conference.

For more information on the conference and to register, visit http://immigration.nmsu.edu.