Migrations seen from New York City: “rhetoric has a stronger impact than decrees”


It is now impossible to talk about Trump administration and its immigration policies without evoking the so called “Muslim Ban” that had such an impact on public opinion in Europe. What changes does it really imply for those who work on the ground and for migrants themselves? How can civil rights, immigration and safety cohabit? Nisha Agarwal, lawyer, Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and influential voice on the current rights and immigration debate raging in the United States, will discuss these questions in an open seminar on Monday June 26th at Ca’ Foscari.

“At a broad level, Trump has had a hard time moving forward major policy changes because they have been halted by the courts - explains commissioner Nisha Agarwal on the impact of the new administration. The Muslim ban is an excellent example of that. Two different appellate courts have blocked it on the basis of discriminating on the basis of religion due to public comments made by the President and his advisors. Similarly, Trump's attempts to pull federal funding from so-called "sanctuary cities" has also been stalled in the courts. The City of San Francisco and County of Santa Clara in California filed a lawsuit, and the court agreed with their argument: the President does not have the power to withhold funding, and even if the President had the power, the spending cut has to be linked to the issue of concern -- can't be broad-based. So, at a large policy level we haven't seen Trump have a huge impact”.

“That said, Trump's harshly anti-immigrant rhetoric, which has continued from the campaign into his administration, is having a significant impact on the ground. Immigrant families are nervous about accessing basic services. Also, his immigration enforcement agents have been very empowered to act -- they have been arresting many more immigrants with no criminal histories or low level histories, a big shift from Obama, often in very inhumane ways. This is being felt on the ground in a very real way”.

At Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Agarwal will bring her multidisciplinary point of view, bot as a lawyer by training and as a recognized scholar awarded by the Marshall Scholarship in Oxford.

“Immigration is fundamentally a multi-disciplinary issue. Of course, in the US -perhaps anywhere - being an immigrant is often a question about your legal status, so understanding the law and being able to advocate within and about it is critical. But immigrants contribute in tremendous ways to the economies, cultural life, and social networks of cities and countries - understanding and being able to document these impacts is very important. Finally, it is critical to understand political and governmental systems -local, regional and national- to have any meaningful impact on immigration policy. Put simply: without training & appreciation for a number of different perspectives it would be impossible to do my job!”

The debate will take place as one of the ‘PISE lectures’ and as the first appointment of the new International Studies Team part of the initiative Research for Global Challenges as an academic initiative for students and an in-depth approach to new collaborations with researchers.

“We are honored to have such a high-profile guest lecturer as Nisha Agarwal for the first event organized by our team - says professor Matteo Legrenzi, coordinator with professor Rolf Petri of the International Team and Area Studies of the Research for Global Challenges. Supporting multidisciplinary approaches and collaborating with professionals are fundamental for attracting European fundings and financial resources from foundations and institutions”.

“As a team we aim to give our contribution and to always improve research at Ca’ Foscari. Thanks to the fundamental work of our team’s research facilitator, Pier Paolo Pentucci, our team members are already working on the drafts anticipated by the European Commission for the upcoming call of Horizon 2020. We do not forget though that the international foundations can make a significant contribution to research in a multidisciplinary perspective. These are not-to-be-missed opportunities”.