Symposium to consider race's role in immigration

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

LAWRENCE — Race has played a pivotal role in U.S. immigration history.

Unlike earlier eras in which racial classification led to formal inclusion or exclusion of immigrants, after the Civil Rights movement the place of race in the formal reception of and in public attitudes toward immigrants have taken on more veiled expressions.

"In the past it used to be very overtly expressed in laws and reactions from the public," said Cecilia Menjívar, University of Kansas Foundation Professor of Sociology. "Today, it's not like that, but race still plays an important, consequential, even if sometimes more subtle, role. When we see patterns of immigrant integration that still follow racial lines, we realize that race is still a major factor."

The KU Center for Migration Research will play host to the symposium "Race & Immigration: Critical Perspectives and Future Directions" on April 7-8 on the KU campus. The two-day event kicks off public programming for this new center, which operates under KU's Institute for Social Policy & Research.

Menjívar and Victor Agadjanian, also a KU Foundation Professor of Sociology, are co-directors of the center.

"Legal barriers surrounding race and immigration have been removed, yet the influence of race  is still pervasive," Agadjanian said. "We want to see issues of race and immigration also from that perspective, as race implicitly permeates through immigration issues. We also want to connect with the current debate on race in America and across the globe."

Rogelio Saenz, the Mark G. Yudof Endowed Professor and dean of the College of Public Policy at the University of Texas, San Antonio, will give the keynote address titled "A Reflection of Reality: A Call for the Racialization of Immigration Studies" on the evening of April 7 at The Commons, Spooner Hall. David Roediger, a KU Foundation Professor of American Studies and History, will give a response to the address.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Carl Lejuez, dean of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and KU Interim Provost Sara Thomas Rosen are scheduled to speak at the two-day event. More information about the symposium and a full schedule is available at the KU Center for Migration Research's website.

Menjívar said that in addition to offering an evening event in hopes of reaching a broad public audience, the symposium will feature daytime research presentations from multiple disciplines across the country and many KU departments.

"The study of migration by nature is very interdisciplinary. You really have to approach migration from different disciplines," she said. "Here at KU, there are people doing this work in different disciplines and different areas. We want to make sure that we start out the Center pointing to the importance of interdisciplinary work."

Photos, from top: Cecilia Menjívar, Victor Agadjanian, David Roediger, courtesy KU Marketing Communications.