As the immigration debate continues to roil the United States, it could be all too easy to think that issues of immigration don’t hit home in Bloomington, Ind. But for the attendees at “Borders, Bans and Babies: America’s War on Immigrants,” it was clear that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In a town hall supported by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs that brought the IU and Bloomington communities together, “Borders, Bans and Babies” hosted a multifaceted discussion on the issues surrounding the immigration debate.
Featuring voices from the IU, Bloomington and national communities, “Borders, Bans and Babies” also gave attendees the chance to find ways to get involved in their own community through the Justice Fair, where nearly 60 local social justice organizations offered attendees information about volunteering. Between the two parts of the event, “Borders, Bans and Babies” offered a powerful way for attendees to put their passion for fighting injustice into practice.
Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, an associate professor of history and gender studies at IU Bloomington and the organizer of the event, was particularly impressed by attendees’ willingness to build on the concepts they discussed with concrete action.
“It was a joy to see people move from listening and learning to doing,” Myers said. “As an activist-scholar, that is all I could ask for: that people go out and invest in making the world better by getting involved in their communities. I hope this event helped to do just that.”
Held in IU Bloomington’s Alumni Hall on Mar. 27, “Borders, Bans and Babies” began with a dance performance by members of the African American Dance Company, followed by a panel discussion with experts from IU, Bloomington, and Brownsville, Tex. Featuring perspectives from both Bloomington and the nation at large, the panel discussion gave attendees a wide variety of perspectives on some of the key issues in today’s immigration debate.
Marianne Kamp, associate professor of Central Eurasian Studies at IU Bloomington, presented on Islamophobia, the Trump Administration’s travel ban, and the ban’s disproportionate impact on Muslim communities around the world. Ko Dokmai, a doctoral student at IU Bloomington and board member of local activist group UndocuHoosiers Bloomington, discussed the ways that the immigration debate affects many individuals in Bloomington, even if the town does not appear to be facing a crisis on a surface level. Bringing a national perspective, Texas A&M history professor and author Felipe Hinojosa discussed the impact of the border wall on towns like Brownsville, Tex., and the individuals forming the resistance to restrictive immigration policies.
“With the exception of Native Americans, we all are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. That is our country, and this is our legacy,” Kamp said. “It’s our lodestar, and if we shift away from that, we will become a very different and a very ugly America.”
In closing, IU Bloomington student Maureen Onyeziri performed an original spoken word piece that moved the crowd and reinforced the importance of the evening’s discussions. Throughout, speakers emphasized the importance of all people getting involved in fighting for immigration justice, since all communities are affected by such issues.
“We want to focus on the issue and let people, especially students on campus, know that these are not just distant issues. These are happening to people in our town, these are happening to students on our campus that you probably walk past every day,” Dokmai said.
Following the panel discussion, attendees were able to participate in the event’s Justice Fair, where representatives of dozens of IU and Bloomington organizations provided them information about ways to get involved in social justice. In addition to the opportunities provided by the Justice Fair, attendees also had the opportunity to take action by donating to a scholarship for undocumented students set up by the IU Bloomington Faculty Council. If the fund, which currently contains around $19,000, reaches $36,000, an IU donor has pledged to match the funds, for a total of $72,000. The funds will then be awarded to undocumented students in financial need, helping ease the strain placed on them by laws that do not allow them to qualify for state or federal financial aid.
According to Myers, the event gave everyone in attendance the perfect opportunity to take at least one action on fighting injustice in the immigration system.
“Nobody can do everything, but each of us can do one thing,” Myers said. “Think about how much better the world would be if we did just one thing.”
To learn more about contributing to the undocumented student scholarship set up through the IU Bloomington Faculty Council, contact professor emeritus Jim Sherman at email@example.com.