Panel talks immigration reform

Northern Kentucky University hosted a panel to discuss immigration issues Oct. 6. The presentation, “Who is allowed to dream?” discussed the Arizona law SB 1070, the Alabama law HB 56 and the Dream Act.

Latino leaders Thomas Saenz, Leo Pierson, Jorge Martinez and NKU’s Director of the Office of Latino Students Affairs Leo Calderón spoke at the presentation.
“Why do immigrants come?” and “Why can’t they file the necessary papers to be legal?” are the most common questions asked about immigration, according to Saenz, who is a civil rights attorney and president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “We need to educate people about immigration because it has a positive impact on the country.”

According to the 2010 census and the Pew Hispanic Center, 16 percent of Americans are Hispanic or Latino and there are about 11 million undocumented persons in the U.S.

Kentucky currently supports the SB 1070 Arizona law, which allows law enforcement to stop and request documentation to individuals who are under the suspicion of being illegal.

According to Saenz, the law affects the economy because it lends Hispanic stereotypes.

“Officers will stop employees who are on their way to work and employers will avoid hiring people who they might think are undocumented,” Saenz said.
The Alabama law HB 56 allows schools to check the status of immigrant students. As a result, “students will not attend school and parents will not send their kids to school for fear of being deported,” according to Saenz.

Martinez, who is a Cincinnati immigration lawyer and director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, explained what the Dream Act is and how it would it work if Congress passed it. Under the act, undocumented students could apply for financial aid and receive a visa if they entered the U.S. before age 15 or are serving in the military.

The director of the Chase Center for Excellence in Advocacy Richard Bales, Saenz and the panel were also welcomed to speak at NKU for Hispanic Heritage Month.
“The Latino community is growing tremendously, so I thought it would be a good idea to reach the community,” Bales said.

“Law is a powerful tool to make positive changes in society,” Saenz said. “It is time for new immigration laws.”