BC Expert: Obama & Immigration
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Westy Egmont is an associate professor of the practice and director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College's School of Social Work. He has been an advisor to the last five governors of Massachusetts on immigration. He is a leading expert in the areas of immigrant integration, refugee resettlement, migration and human trafficking. The Immigrant Integration Lab is an applied research center exploring the intersection of social work and social policy to determine the most appropriate services and delivery systems that lead to full social, civic, and economic integration of the foreign born in the United States. Prior to coming to BC, he served as president of the International Institute of Boston, a leader in New England in providing services to immigrants and refugees. He also co-chaired the National Immigrant Integration Conference and founded “Dreams of Freedom,” a multimedia exhibition covering the immigration experience in Boston from the Puritans to present day.
President Obama's decision to use his executive authority on immigration may bring tremendous relief to the five million undocumented immigrants who can “come out of the shadows,” but it may bring risk as well.
"This has enormous risk for the folks who choose to participate," says Westy Egmont, an immigration expert with Boston College’s School of Social Work. "When there’s an executive order, the question becomes ‘Do I trust this enough be sufficient enough to meet my needs and do I participate?'
"When this opportunity comes along, you can get temporary reprieve from your fear of deportation or family separation, but you also are making yourself accountable to the federal government with knowledge about your status," says Egmont, an advisor on immigration to the last five governors of Massachusetts. "That status now taken under the executive order will be something that can be rescinded by the next president upon taking office or by a change of law. Everyone who takes this step will have to think twice about whether they trust the government, about whether they trust the Department of Homeland Security and its enforcement side, ICE; whether or not there will be a perpetuation of opportunity or whether this is a very short-lived opportunity with high risk at the end."
Egmont reminds us executive orders are not new and Obama's action aren't a permanent solution.
"We ought to celebrate the fact that for five million people, this is about hope, it’s about promise, it’s about possibilities," says Egmont, director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College. "It’s a very complicated story in fact because what’s taking place is only an executive order which is to say none of the major problems have been solved. We still have a giant need for an amnesty, we have a lot of people still out of status. There’s no permanent seat in what’s being offered so for millions of people, this is an acknowledgment of their presence, a way of not fearing being separated from their children but there’s a tremendous need for Congress to still act and bring comprehensive immigration reform.”
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