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Jacobson challenges common narratives about immigration

On April 6, Pi Sigma Alpha and SGA hosted Dr. Robin Jacobson, who spoke about immigration and the narratives about immigrants that affect our national policy decisions.

Jacobson, an associate professor of political science at the University of Puget Sound in Washington state, emphasized the influence of narratives throughout her talk.

“Recognize, I think, the power of narratives about who immigrants are that actually inform the kinds of policy choices that we’re making,” Jacobson said. “So to think really clearly when they [students] hear things in the news or are speaking about immigrants, that the way we talk about it, even the language that we use, really matters for what’s going to happen in people’s lives.”

One of the major narratives addressed by the talk was the conflation of the terms ‘immigrant’ and ‘criminal.’

“Looking at crime rates of immigrants, you’ll find that when you look at them, most studies will say that they actually have much lower crime rates than native-born populations,” Jacobson said.

Evan Banks, a senior at Missouri Western, was left questioning current American immigration policy.

“It makes no sense to me why you would move to incarcerate people who, ideologically, a group of people doesn’t want,” Banks said. “If you don’t want people in your country, why would you keep them in your country and pay for them to be in your country and eliminate their ability to actually contribute to the country’s economy? It makes zero sense to me.”

Jacobson notes that race is a major reason for these narratives.

“I think it’s tied up with race at this moment in a very negative way, and so I think maybe trying to untangle that a little bit and think about American identity as something that’s open and accessible to multiple different races would go a long way in changing the way that we respond to immigrants and the stories that we tell about them,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson’s talk was one in a series of talks hosted for Women’s History Month. Ed Taylor, an associate professor of political science at Missouri Western, appreciates the diversity of opinions that these talks present.

“A lot of it is about diversity of perspective,” Taylor said. “Our students encounter us as faculty members every day, and especially in political science for example, which has a limited amount of faculty, it’s nice to get people with different experiences, people doing different research on different questions, and it helps bring a sort of invigorated sense of intellectualism into the university.”

Taylor hopes that students will think more about this issue among others as a result of the talk.

“I think one, for students just to actually stop and think about it is a good thing to begin with and then two, to think more deeply about an issue that’s actually pretty complicated and might be challenging to think about from a very different perspective,” Taylor said.

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