UM College of Arts & Sciences Immigration Reform Course Addresses Complex Issue Before 2014 Election

Unique Team-Taught Class Shows Perspectives from Diverse Faculty and Guest Speakers

With the 2014 mid-term election just two months away – and President Obama pledging to take action to overhaul the immigration system if necessary – immigration reform is firmly placed at the top of the political agenda.

Congressman Joe Garcia (D-FL) speaks with students
after the opening session of Immigration and the 2014
Election.

Students have an opportunity to gain a variety of perspectives on this thorny topic through Immigration and the 2014 Election, a unique course in the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences. It is team taught by faculty from across the College, and features guest speakers throughout the semester including politicians, activists, lawyers and other stakeholders.

The semester began on an exciting note, with a panel discussion between U.S. Congressman José Antonio “Joe” Garcia, Jr. (a College alumnus), and Enrique Gonzalez, former special counsel to Senator Marco Rubio. Democrat Garcia represents much of South Florida in Washington. Gonzalez, a former Republican staffer, helped to draft S. 744, the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013.

Although they sit on opposite sides of the political aisle, the two speakers agreed that the solution to the immigration situation in America must encourage people to respect the law.

“We have to respect the law, but understand that the law is broken,” Gonzalez said.

Garcia noted, “We’ve created an ‘attractive nuisance’ in the U.S., something that invites people to break the law or the system.” He added, “American culture is not stagnant – it is always evolving.”

UM President Donna Shalala, herself a former government official, addressed the students, whom she called “future policy makers.”

Shalala was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, for the full eight years of his presidency. “This is about character as much as about anything else,” she said.

The panel was moderated by UM’s Vice President for Government and Community Relations Rudy Fernandez. The former special assistant to President George W. Bush is an instructor for the course.

Along with Fernandez, the course instructors are: Ariel Armony, director of the Center for Latin American Studies, Weeks Professor in Latin American Studies, and professor of political science; Joseph Uscinski, associate professor of political science; and Fernand Amandi, managing partner of research and media strategy firm Bendixen & Amandi International.

Amandi presented the facts and figures on immigration into the U.S., using media clips to demonstrate the fervid sentiments of public figures like Bill Maher and Ann Coulter, which are fueling the debate..

 Alice Campbell, a student from Los Angeles who has “personally see the effects and the necessity of reform,” is looking forward to a lively semester full of impassioned debate.

“Professor Uscinski is a great professor, and although politically I’m completely opposed, it’s great to have a discussion,” she said.

September 02, 2014