COLUMBIA — A group of about 65 people gathered in MU's Strickland Hall on Thursday evening for a discussion with Jonathan Inda about the policies and practices of policing immigration in the U. S.
Inda, a visiting professor from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, specifically discussed the raiding practices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"Raids have, in fact, become rather commonplace in the United States over the last few years," Inda said. "They are part of a broader practice of governance that has aggressively criminalized immigrants."
Inda outlined the idea of the post-social state, a concept in which ideal citizens are responsible for their own well-being. This concept also creates a marginalized group of irresponsible citizens, who are deemed incapable of fending for themselves in the same way ideal citizens do.
According to the concept, the people who are irresponsible are then governed and dealt with through crime, Inda said.
"Today, crime and punishment are a primary means through which political and other authorities generally seek to govern," Inda said.
Using this idea, Inda described how undocumented immigrants can fall under the category of 'irresponsible' and are dealt with through the criminalization of their behavior.
Some Americans have this viewpoint and see undocumented immigrants as lawbreakers, burdens on the state and competition for jobs, he said.
"Indeed, they are commonly seen as bent on sponging off the American people," Inda said.
Much of Inda's lecture focused on raids, a practice in which authorities ambush a specific area to capture and arrest people suspected of living and working in the country illegally. Raids can happen anywhere and are common in workplaces.
Generally, those who are arrested in a raid are placed in a detention center, where they wait to be deported, Inda said. Sometimes, those with young children are released. Some are charged with crimes and face time in jail.
When these people are caught, they are not the only ones who have to face consequences, Inda said.
"Not only does the removal of a breadwinner reduce a family's income and increase their material hardship, it also creates a rather unstable home environment," Inda said. "Moreover, the fear and stigma produced by a raid can lead to the social isolation of immigrant families and have an adverse psychological effect on children."
Inda also cited studies indicating that the Hispanic population in general, including those who are U.S. citizens, worries about deportation.
"Immigrant raids, then, and immigration enforcement more generally, have helped to create a sense of unease among Latinos, immigrants in particular," Inda said.
Michael Ugarte, a professor of Spanish literature at MU, said he's familiar with immigration issues because his son practices immigration law in California. He said Inda's lecture confirmed what he thought.
"I think it's creating fear of coming into the country," Ugarte said. "I think it's counterproductive to the well-being of the country. Immigration is going to continue. We have to deal with it on a more human level."
Inda said the outlook for immigrant advocates is not completely bleak and that there are groups fighting to hedge the negative effect of raids.
"Immigrants and their advocates have not completely lost their spirits," Inda said.