UNT to hold conference on undocumented immigration in U.S.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What: "Undocumented Hispanic Immigrants in the United States: Problems, Benefits and Prospects" -- A one-day conference at the University of North Texas to provide objective research about undocumented immigration.

When: May 8 (Thursday), 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Silver Eagle Suite of UNT's University Union, which is located one block west of Welch and West Prairie streets (1155 Union Circle), UNT campus

Cost: $95 for general public, $53.50 for UNT faculty and staff members and $20 for UNT students. Registration deadline is May 1 (Thursday). To register, go to www.coe.unt.edu/cser

Contact: For questions about registration, contact Amanda Barksdale at (940) 565-3484 or abarksdale@unt.edu. For questions about the content of the conference, contact Dr. Richard Fossey, UNT professor of teacher education and administration, at richard.fossey@unt.edu.

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- While Congress failed last year to pass an immigration reform bill  to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States, more than 1,400 bills concerning immigration were introduced in state legislatures during the first six months of 2007, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

However, state and local laws have forced some undocumented immigrants and their families to flee their communities, which has disrupted the schooling in undocumented immigrant families. This has concerned some educators, who point out that children of undocumented immigrants have a constitutional right to attend public school, according to a 1982 Supreme Court decision.

The national debate about undocumented immigration prompted Dr. Richard Fossey and several University of North Texas faculty members to organize a conference that will examine the policy issues surrounding the debate. Scheduled for May 8 (Thursday), "Undocumented Hispanic Immigrants in the United States: Benefits, Problems and Prospects" will provide scholarly information, focusing on the benefits as well as problems of undocumented immigration. The conference will feature speakers on legal, cultural, human rights, economic and education issues.

"Undocumented Hispanic Immigrants in the United States: Benefits, Problems and Prospects" will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Silver Eagle Suite of UNT's University Union, which is located one block west of Welch and West Prairie streets. Registration fees are $95 for the general public, $53.50 for UNT faculty and staff members and $20 for UNT students. To register, go to www.coe.unt.edu/cser. The registration deadline is May 1 (Thursday).

Fossey, who is the senior policy researcher at UNT's Center for the Study of Education Reform, said he hopes that information presented at the conference will dispel some misconceptions about undocumented immigrants.

"There's the idea that they don't pay their share of taxes, and that the crime rate for neighborhoods with undocumented immigrants is higher than those of neighborhoods with native-born Americans," he said, adding that some local ordinances, such as the one in Farmers Branch that imposes stiff fines on landlords who rent properties to those who are in the U.S. without proper papers, "grew out of fear and not correct facts."

"I felt that the local reaction to the Farmers Branch ordinance was based on misinformation," Fossey said. "In choosing the speakers for the conference, I looked for those who could give good objective information, not a pro- or anti-immigration stance."

The speakers include Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, who will give his perspective of children of undocumented immigrants in public schools; Rosa Castañeda of the nonpartisan analysis firm Urban Institute, who recently published research on the impact of deportation activities of children of undocumented immigrants; and Bill Hammond, chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Business, who will discuss undocumented immigration's impact on the Texas economy.

Other speakers are Kevin Appleby, policy director of migration and refugee services at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and David Hinojosa and Marisol Pérez, attorneys with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Norma Cantú, visiting professor of law and education at the University of Texas at Austin, will be the conference's luncheon speaker.

Cantú served in the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration for eight years. As the longest-serving assistant secretary for civil rights, she implemented governmental policy for civil rights in American education. During Cantú's first two years in this position, her office increased the number of resolved illegal discrimination complaints by 20 percent, with more than a third of the cases disposed of without adversarial proceedings, but based on voluntary corrective action. By Cantú's final year in office, the number of cases resolved each year had risen nearly another 20 percent.

Before being appointed as assistant secretary in 1993, Cantú worked as regional counsel and education director of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund for 14 years. In those positions, she litigated scores of important cases affecting educational funding, disability rights, student disciplinary policies, access to special services for English-language learners and racially hostile environments.

For a complete list of conference speakers and a schedule, go to www.coe.unt.edu/cser//CSER/Index.htm. For more information, contact Fossey at richard.fossey@unt.edu.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108