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Distributed May 5, 2004
Contact Ricardo Howell

Homeland Insecurity
Six op-ed voices on “The Changing Face of Immigration”

Homeland Insecurity: The Changing Face of Immigration, a recent public affairs conference at Brown University, focused on immigration in the United States after Sept. 11, 2001. At the University’s invitation, several conference speakers prepared op-ed pieces on immigration issues. These are available through the Brown News Service.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A panel of distinguished commentators, including policy-makers, civic representatives, analysts and cultural experts gathered at Brown University for Homeland Insecurity: The Changing Face of Immigration, an annual public affairs conference at the University. Several conference participants prepared short commentaries on immigration themes ranging from the fight against terrorism on U.S. soil to labor force implications to the American audience for immigrant literature.

Editors: Full text of these articles is available at the Brown News Service Web site:

Andrei Codrescu
In defense of Tom ‘Thumb’ Ridge

History says that everyone coming here is a foreigner until proven otherwise. The U.S. immigration authorities have a long, flourishing tradition, beginning in the early 19th century, of treating every would-be immigrant like a criminal. I also like fingerprinting and photographing every so-called foreigner, because it makes me feel that I’m really an American – a person, that is, who owns a Japanese-made flat-screen TV, a Chinese barbecue pit, and a Romanian-made American flag. There are actually some who say that our authorities mean to eventually fingerprint and photograph every person in the world, and that airports are not a bad place to start.

Romanian-born writer and essayist Andrei Codrescu is the MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English at Louisiana State University. He is a regularly featured commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

Mark Krikorian
Safety through immigration control

No matter the weapon or delivery system – hijacked airliners, shipping containers, suitcase nukes, anthrax spores – terrorists are needed to carry out the attacks, and those terrorists have to enter and operate in the United States. In a very real sense, the primary weapons of our enemies are not the inanimate objects at all, but rather the terrorists themselves. Keeping terrorists out or apprehending them after they get in is indispensable to victory in the war against terror. Supporters of high immigration have tried to de-link immigration control from security. Even the 9/11 Commission, which held hearings on the immigration failures that contributed to the attacks, is devoting inordinate attention to peripheral issues like who sent what memo to whom.

Since 1995, Mark Krikorian has been the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., that examines the impact of immigration on the United States.

Lavinia Limón
America must not close the door to refugees

Immigrants and refugees and their advocates are as shaken by terrorism as the rest of us, and want to ensure that terrorists are not given a free pass to enter America. We must enforce and strengthen existing laws and institute new procedures aimed at terrorists and criminals. But we must not let refugees become collateral damage in the process. Refugees have been brutalized, ejected from their homes, marginalized, discriminated against and suspected. They’ve been arbitrarily arrested, interrogated, imprisoned, raped or shot, or seen loved ones abused or killed, for belonging to the wrong religious, political or ethnic group or for associating with the wrong people. They’ve endured indefinite imprisonment without legal rights, under lawless regimes. Homeland security is something refugees have never known.

Lavinia Limón is executive director of Immigration and Refugee Services of America. During the Clinton administration, she served simultaneously as the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, in the Department of Health and Human Services and as the director of the Office of Family Assistance.

Virgínia da Mota
Let us leave no immigrant child behind!

Our country has always been a land of immigrants, and the acculturation or assimilation of new cultures and languages has always been challenging. One could argue that our most recent immigrants and refugees face greater social, economic and political obstacles than those of past generations. I hope that our sense of social justice and responsibility to incorporate newcomers into our society continues so that we can all reap the benefits of cultural diversity, which will position us for our rapidly evolving global society. If nothing else, investing the resources necessary to educate all newcomers to realize their potential is simply a good economic strategy. While investments in educating English language learners have a current cost, that cost is small when compared to the future cost of failing to do so – increasing dropout, unemployment and incarceration rates.

Virgínia da Mota is director of school improvement and support services at the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She has served as a consultant on bilingual education to the U.S. Office of Education and as chair of the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education Advisory Panel.

Jean Burritt Robertson
Immigration and labor force participation: Have times changed?

Is the America that current immigrants arrive in a different place than it was generations ago? Will current immigrants find the opportunities that may have inspired them to emigrate? In many ways, today’s immigrants encounter a better situation than their predecessors. Health insurance offers protections not afforded in the past and welfare to work programs give families time and resources to acquire skills and education before transitioning to full-time employment. Nationwide, manufacturing jobs, once the mainstay of the middle income, have been shrinking and are increasingly replaced by low-income service jobs. Like most new immigrants, today’s immigrants may be over-represented in high-risk jobs. This problem is compounded by the language differences between supervisory and non-supervisor staff. If today’s immigrants are to become the grandparents of tomorrow’s professionals, education and language skills will be a major key.

Since 1999 Jean Burritt Robertson has served as director of research and development for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation.

David Shrayer-Petrov and Maxim D. Shrayer
Immigrant Stories

America still offers immigrant writers a shelter – a place and a space to write – and even the occasional rewards of the literary marketplace. For an immigrant writer, the welcoming anonymity of American life is both liberating and stifling, exhilarating and disheartening. What does it mean for an immigrant writer to become an American writer? Is it language, or representation of American life, or something else that escapes definition – something the readers perceive intuitively? Some writers never become American – either in language or in the themes and spirit of their work, or in their commitment to this country’s destiny, even after decades of living in the United States. America still promises, and gives, much of herself to immigrant writers. But once translated and published, immigrant stories start American lives of their own.

David Shrayer-Petrov, a Russian-American writer and medical scientist, has published sixteen books, including the novel Herbert and Nelly, which was long-listed for the 1993 Booker Russian Prize. His son, Maxim D. Shrayer, is professor of Russian and English at Boston College.


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