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Immigration forum at county library Monday

The public is invited to attend a discussion on immigration hosted by Gavilan College's Civic Engagement Title V program
"A Closer Look At: Immigration," flyer courtesy of the Civic Engagement Title V program.

Neither fortified walls, extra border patrol agents, nor mass deportations will stop the flow of immigration to the United States from Mexico. At best, argues Gavilan College professor of history, Enrique Luna, the spigot can be tightened but never turned off.

On Monday, April 24, Dr. Luna will join his colleague, sociology professor Marilyn Chap, in a discussion on immigration at the San Benito County Free Library. Free and open to the public, the event starts at 7 p.m. in the library’s Barbara Room.

The evening discussion is part of, “A Closer Look: Using Academic Inquiry to Probe Current Issues,” a series organized and funded by the junior college’s Civic Engagement Title V program.

Leah Halper, the program’s community liaison and a Gavilan faculty member, explained in a telephone interview with BenitoLink that “A Closer Look At: Immigration,” is the third in an ongoing series that began last fall. The 2016 presidential election and climate change were the previous topics covered.

Halper added that the series serves three purposes:

First, it provides students and community members with a sense of how particular academic disciplines examine and analyze an issue. Second, it allows college faculty the opportunity to share their expertise with the public. And most importantly, it encourages individuals to stake their claim as citizens, forming opinions and engaging in timely discussions based on facts and evidence.

Halper, who will be moderating the forum, stated that she hopes the discussion gets “people to think about how the U.S. does immigration.”

The one-hour discussion will include a twenty minute presentation by each panelist, followed by a question-and-answer period.

In his telephone interview with BenitoLink, Luna said that his goal for Monday evening is to provide attendees with “an overview of the historical factors on immigration,” starting with the fact that it is a phenomena that has existed since the dawn of humanity.

The search for food, land, resources, and opportunity has been constant of the human experience, he explained. 

Government attempts at stopping such movement has met little, if any, success.

“Immigration can’t be controlled, only mitigated,” he said.

And borders do much more than delineate where the territory of one country begins and another ends.

“Borders create ‘outsiders,’ individuals who are more vulnerable and less expensive, as they are often paid less and do the most risky work,” Luna said.

The professor added that he would spend some time addressing how “long-standing economic connections” between the U.S. and Mexico have affected immigration.

Acknowledging that the issue has become deeply polarizing, he wants to avoid alienating anyone, regardless of their stance on immigration.

His approach to the discussion: Explain the historical aspects of immigration and help attendees understand that they are part of the process.

More information:

Gavilan College's Civic Engagement Title V program website

San Benito County Free Library
470 Fifth St.
Note: The seating capacity for the Barbara Room is limited to 49, according to the library's website

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Frank Pérez (fjperez)

I’m a lifelong resident of San Benito County. I reside in Hollister with my wife, Brenda. I’m embarking on my 19th year at San Benito High School, where I teach world history and Mexican-American history. In addition, I'm moonlighting as a freelance journalist for BenitoLink. My passion is delving deeper into the nuances of the local, historical record, while including lesser-known stories of our past. My hope is that county residents will have a greater appreciation for the diversity and complexity of San Benito County, realizing that its uniqueness depends upon our responsibility as its stewards.


“Borders create ‘outsiders,’ individuals who are more vulnerable and less expensive, as they are often paid less and do the most risky work,” Luna said.  Some of that is true, but not much in a highly regulated society like ours, IF they would enforce the laws. Most immigrants usually start at the bottom, they typically do low paying jobs that require less USEABLE formal education and a heck of a lot of hard work - but not necessarily "risky" in the absolute sense.  Construction jobs and farm labor are, naturally, riskier than office work.

The most dangerous jobs are fishing, logging, refuse collecting, roofing, steel workers, farmers and ranching, truck drivers, power line installer and taxi drivers, but all those jobs are much safer here than they are in Mexico for example.  The majority of construction jobs - which employ the majority of illegal immigrants - are not particularly dangerous.  The job related death rate for refuse collectors is very high, 90 per 100,000, but for pilots it is 88 per 100,000 and 32 per 100,000 for taxi drivers.  Accidents alone account for a U.S. military death rate of about 41 per 100,000

Borders also define the limits of political systems and a nation's decisions to control its own destiny.  The problem is not about immigration - it is about illegal immigration.  That last part is the key and constantly gets left out of the discussion.  I cannot imagine one benefit to the U.S. of rampant ILLEGAL immigration and that has been going on for many decades.

p.s. I support increased legal immigration.

Marty Richman

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