HCC students open immigration dialogue



Students deliberate immigration issues at the Bridge Project.

  Hillsborough Community College hosted an Immigration event called The Bridge Project that started with an interactive workshop and concluded with a professional panel of local and national experts talking openly about immigration. The event was organized by the Community Based Activism club, and it focused on the national discussion surrounding the immigration system. An emphasis on education was also stressed by the panelists at the event on the Dale Mabry Campus.

  The event began with conversations and had tables set up with a different topic written on large pieces of paper. Colored pencils were also available to illustrate the discussions while speaking about each subject.

  At each table was a person available to discuss the issue based on their own personal experiences and knowledge. Students and faculty spent 30 minutes asking questions and discussing the issues that command a large majority of the news on television. The issues discussed ranged from the labeling of an immigrant that is legal versus one that is illegal, to statistics, criminal activity and deportation.

  HCC student Bryan Lopez sat at a table and explained the process immigrants go through to become American citizens. “The first step is to get a work permit which is renewed every year,” he explained. “There isn’t much that comes with that status besides being able to get a driver’s license and you receive very little government assistance.”

  The next step is to apply for a green card, and then the work permit becomes void. At this point the immigrant is considered a resident of the U.S. and can receive some assistance. After five years of having the green card and living and working, the resident can then file to become an American citizen.

  After the discussions, the attendees filtered into the auditorium to listen to a panel discussing these issues in a more in-depth environment.

  The expert panel consisted of New York lawyer Cesar Vargas, political strategist and activist Yesenia Mata, University of Tampa Immigration professor Michael Coon, local School Board Chair Susan Valdez, bipartisan immigration activist Samuel Aguilar, and USF Graduate Director Heide Castaneda.

  Misconceptions about immigration were a focal point during the question and answer session with the panelists.

  Coon addressed the delusion of undocumented immigrants are a burden to the economy. He addressed it by sharing how these workers that pay taxes will never see a Social Security check even though they have contributed 7-12 billion into that pool. Also, when they spend, it generates more jobs and they also contribute by paying sales taxes.

  The more people are living here, the more electricity and household goods are bought he added.

  Valdez stressed some important points to the audience of students. She said, “To break cycles, you need to have courageous leaders in power. Know who you are voting for and where they stand.”

  She explained that to implement change, students need to reach out to their elected officials to make change happen.

  With misinformation on immigration so prevalent in our society, it is important to study the facts and have an open mind when discussion divisive issues.

  The event ended with all attendees having a broader view of just how complex and outdated our current immigration system has become. View a portion of the panel discussion online at Hawkeyenews.net.