A conversation on immigration

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

As news coverage of immigration continues to increase, U students had the opportunity to hear from a correspondent who covers the issues every day.

Rachel Swarns, a Washington, D.C. correspondent for The New York Times, spoke about the global and local implications of immigration as part of the September Project.

Although immigration is one of the “hottest domestic topics” today, the drive behind its coverage is different to what it was in the 1900s, Swarns said in Libby Gardner Hall Wednesday.

“This new wave of immigration is different because of who’s coming,” she said. “In 1910, it was Europeans. Now, it’s Mexican and Latin Americans.”

Swarns explained how this global issue of immigration can change local communities.

In a recent article, Swarns analyzed the immigration boom in a small Georgia town and its effects on the 7,000 inhabitants.

“In 1990, this town was populated with mostly black and white residents, so now, people are worrying about how they’re going to fit the bill with the new Hispanic population,” Swarns said. “Now, Harvey’s, the town’s grocery store, has three aisles dedicated to Mexican specialty food, something that was never there before.”

Swarns also explained her own interest in the immigration debate. Growing up in diverse New York City, she developed an interest in Spanish after noticing she was the only kid in her neighborhood who didn’t speak another language.

Being the daughter of black and Caribbean immigrants also sparked an interest in the debate, she said.

Swarns was hesitant, however, to express her personal opinions regarding immigration.

“At this point, the only thing I can say is that people on both sides of the issue would probably agree that the system isn’t working,” she said. “And I hesitate to go into my personal view because, as a journalist, we have to present all sides and remain unbiased.”

Drew Johnson, freshman in business, didn’t agree with Swarns’ approach.

“I wasn’t too satisfied with her opinion on immigration,” Johnson said. “She had great facts and numbers, but she tended to go around personal questions.”

Another U student, however, liked Swarns’ perspective.

“It was great to hear an immigration perspective from an immigration-oriented person,” said Mayra Lopez, freshman in behavioral science. “It’s nice hearing about other immigrants besides the Hispanics the news talks about all the time.”

Kim Peterson

Rachel Swarns, writer for The New York Times, discusses immigration issues at Libby Gardner Hall on Wednesday.