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Public Affairs Programs

Getting to the Point on Immigration and Refugees

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021, 2:30 - 3:30 PM

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate hosted Getting to the Point on Immigration and Refugees, a timely conversation with leading immigration experts and activists focused on the current state of immigration in the United States, the global phenomenon of forced displacement, and the historic plight of refugees around the world. Moderated by Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston and Kennedy Institute board member, the conversation included Dr. Carolina Jiménez Sandoval from the Washington Office on Latin America and JC Hendrickson from the International Rescue Committee, who discussed immigration and the movement of refugees from both an American and global perspective, with connections to Central America, Haiti, and Afghanistan.

Chancellor Suárez-Orozco opened up the program with unifying remarks: “All of us are immigrants. Some of us are involuntary immigrants. Some of us are voluntary immigrants. The history of immigration, fundamentally, is the history of the making of the United States.” But he was forthright in talking about the changing dynamics of modern-day immigration: “The new dynamics that are unfolding … at the United States’ southern border. What is unfolding at the southern border, mimics, in a way, the story of what is going on in so many parts of the world today.”

Dr. Carolina Jiménez Sandoval agreed that the plight of refugees is not that of their ancestors and said that accepting and embracing that change will help inform policy: “Now, perhaps, more than ever, we need to discuss [our migration] more and more, because the changes that we have witnessed in the last few years actually imply that we need to talk about the new strategies. We need to discuss the new realities. So, one thing that we need to discuss about the southern border is that … what some consider a border crisis is not actually a problem at the [American] border. Migration doesn’t start there, in America. Their migration starts … in countries that are not too far away, like Mexico for example. … Having a clear vision about what the driving factors are good to inform policies that are respectful of human rights and also take into consideration the US needs.”

JC Hendrickson has been observing the evolving situation in Afghanistan and was able to make the same policy connections regarding better understanding the needs and solutions of those displaced that Dr. Carolina Jiménez Sandoval proposed at America’s southern boarder: “There are 18.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan – which is about half the country…So, this type of crisis warrants an extraordinary response by the international community [and] by regional neighbors … We’re also continuing to push to make improvements so that people who still want to leave Afghanistan, or maybe who left but are kind of in an uncertain situation in a third country, have a way that they can get to the United States.”

The Kennedy Institute’s Getting to the Point speaker series highlights the people and topics driving national policy and current dialogue. These programs take on various formats, including keynote lectures, moderated conversations, and panel discussions. Getting to the Point programs have featured a diverse array of elected officials and thought leaders since its inception.

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