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Social Science Matters: 'Sanctuary and Undocumented Students'

Event Details

March 7, 2017
4:00 pm

Integrative Learning Center

Room: 3rd Floor Communication Hub

UMass Amherst Campus

Handicap access available
Free admission

Karma Chávez, associate professor and director of graduate studies, department of Mexican American & Latina/o Studies, University of Texas-Austin, will present on her research.

Upon the election of Trump as President of the US, undocumented immigrant students and their allies scrambled to strategize mechanisms of support for those who feared losing their protected status under Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. Given that Trump has explicitly said he will repeal DACA and take an aggressive and enforcement-only approach to immigration more broadly, the already precarious situation for all immigrants living in the US seemed all the more dire. University committees, student groups, and academic organizations began strategizing about what it would mean to make universities "sanctuaries" for undocumented students. Several hundred university presidents signed on to a letter in Dec. 2016 declaring their support for undocumented students, though the terms of that support was unspecified. This paper considers the various dimensions of the question of the university as a sanctuary space as posed in popular discourse, what it might mean for the university to actually be safe, or at least safer for its most marginalized residents, and how these questions might open new space to think about ways revise, recreate and promote the mission of the public university amid conservative backlash, austerity, and privatization.

Chávez's scholarship is primarily informed by queer of color theory and women of color feminism. Methodologically, she is a rhetorical critic who variously utilizes textual and field based methods. She is interested in studying social movement building, activist rhetoric, and coalitional politics. Her work emphasizes the rhetorical practices of groups marginalized within existing power structures, but she also attends to rhetoric produced by powerful institutions and actors about marginalized folks and the systems that oppress them (e.g., immigration system, prisons etc.). 


The Integrative Learning Center is located in the center of campus, between the campus pond and the Campus Center.