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Baldy Center to Present Workshop on Immigration Policy Post-9/11

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: April 8, 2005

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Scholars from the disciplines of law, history and the social sciences will come together to discuss the state of U.S. immigration policy in the post-9/11 era during a workshop set for 1-5:45 p.m. April 15 in the faculty lounge of the UB Law School, 545 O'Brian Hall, North Campus.

The workshop, titled "Immigration Policy and Practice Post-9/11: Impacts, Historical Precedents and Future Directions," is being presented by the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy in the Law School.

Organizers are Michael Lichter, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences, and David Gerber, professor in the Department of History, CAS.

Among the topics to be discussed are whether the current U.S. immigration policies match what happened in similar past crisis; the impacts of these policies, particularly on Arabs and Muslims; and what these policies indicate for the future of immigrants in this country.

Lichter points out that the title of the workshop itself is very important.

"It (the title) refers to "immigration practice and policy,"" he says. "The workshop is very much about policy—meaning the law and the administrative rules adopted by government agencies. It's also about practice—what happens when government agencies and agents go about implementing policy. The kinds of practices that concern me are arbitrary and inconsistent treatment of immigrants: the detentions, without explanation, that occurred during the 'special registration' period (during which all male nonimmigrants ages 16 and over from specific countries were required to register with local immigration offices) and that still continue to date; the long-term delays, without explanation, in the processing of visa applications; incidents at the border, like the detention last December of a group of Muslims who were returning to the U.S. from a conference in Toronto. So, I thought it was important to talk about not just policy/law (the USA PATRIOT Act), but also practice."

The workshop will be divided into two panel discussions. The first panel, "Legal Changes and the Treatment of Arabs and Muslims in Post-9/11 America," will feature appearances by Susan M. Akram, an immigration lawyer from Boston University Law School; Anny Bakalian and Mehdi Bozorgmehr, associate director and co-founding director, respectively, of the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center, Graduate Center, City University of New York; and Lichter. Akram will speak on the constitutional consequences of post-9/11 immigration policies, Lichter will discuss the experience of Arabs and Muslims living in Buffalo and Bakalian and Bozorgmehr will address the impact of the post-9/11 backlash on the Arab and Muslim American communities. Teresa Miller, associate professor in the Law School, will serve as moderator.

The second panel, to begin at 3 p.m., will focus on "Historical and Cross-National Perspectives." Panelists will include Gary Gerstle, a historian from the University of Maryland, and Jeffrey G. Reitz, R.F. Harney Professor of Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies, Center for International Studies, University of Toronto.

Gerstle will present a historical perspective on the idea of immigrants posing a threat to national security, while Reitz will address Canadian immigration policies since Sept. 11. Gerber will serve as moderator.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002, the USA Patriot Act of 2001, the "special registration" program—part of the Department of Justice's National Security Entry-Exit Registration System—and the FBI's discovery and pursuance of the Lackawanna Six will topics for discussion, Lichter notes.

He says this workshop marks the first time such a session on immigration research has been conducted at UB.

"David Gerber and I saw a need and moved to fill it," Lichter says. "I study contemporary immigration and David studies historical immigration, and both of us have observed a dearth of opportunities at UB for immigration scholars to meet and exchange ideas."

Lichter said he hopes the workshop will help "to ameliorate the fear and violence that the 9/11 attacks have generated in the U.S. and around the world" and enhance immigration research.

The workshop is open to UB faculty members, and law and graduate students. While the workshop is free, space is limited and registration recommended. Those interested in participating can register by emailing their name and affiliation to Ellen Kausner at ekausner@buffalo.edu. Questions regarding the content of the workshop can be addressed to Lichter at mlichter@buffalo.edul. More information can be found at http://www.law.buffalo.edu/baldycenter/immig04.htm.