ASU School of Transborder Studies

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The ASU School of Transborder Studies develops cutting edge transborder knowledge regarding the populations of the U.S.-Mexico region. ASU Regents’ Professor and ASU School of Transborder Studies Director Carlos Velez-Ibanez talks about what the school has accomplished and how it has changed through the years.

José Cárdenas: Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. An ASU professor talks about the impact of Arizona's immigration policies on Mexican-origin populations. Also, in "Sounds of Cultura (SOC)," hear the sounds of Latin jazz from a musician blending Caribbean rhythms in the southwest. And you'll get to know the new superintendent of one west valley school district. All this coming up straight ahead on "Horizonte."

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José Cárdenas: One of the missions of the ASU school of transborder studies is to develop cutting-edge transborder knowledge regarding the populations of the U.S.- Mexico region. Here with me to talk about what the school has accomplished and ASU school of transborder director and regents professor, Carlos Velez Ibánez. Welcome back, we had you on the show just a few weeks ago, we ran out of time and I promised you then we'd get you back. We're still not going to be able to have enough time, but there's a lot of important stuff that we did want to get to and starting with what we mentioned in the introduction, and that's the impact of all the turmoil in Arizona, the psychological impact surrounding SB . You guys have done some studies and come up with interesting information.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: I think we have the smoking guns. As the aftermath of the work -- As a matter of fact our director of our program, Celine, who is an anthropologist, she worked with other colleagues in looking at the impact, the psychological impact of 1070, and all of the anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the way in which this impacted psychologically not just undocumented people, but also on very, very sound random sample of Mexican origin population from South Phoenix. And among the most interesting findings of her work was that the level of distress and anxiety that was created was greater among U.S. citizens than it was among undocumented and documented peoples.

José Cárdenas: Why would that be the case?

Carlos Velez Ibánez: The -- Because many households in which you have U.S. citizens you also have persons that in fact also have family members who may not be part of the household, but who may be undocumented and live somewhere else. As well as residents. So you have the three categories of people that are engaged within the same familial network. People who are residents, undocumented, and themselves. In addition to which the kind of commentaries that come as the aftermath of the legislation itself, for example, in stores, in interactions with others. Many times we're directed towards people who were U.S. citizens and English speaking, thinking the persons making the remarks thinking they couldn't speak English. So they received the blunt edge if you want, of an awful lot of the anti-immigration rhetoric. And that's one of the findings that in fact the and all much the rhetoric that was in fact induced by this, including political figures making comments, the latest of course being the sheriff from Pinal county leading his cohorts to trying to stop the children who were allegedly coming into the area.

José Cárdenas: The more recent --

Carlos Velez Ibánez: Right.

José Cárdenas: So what are the implications?

Carlos Velez Ibánez: The implications of this are the following. First of all, we have large segments of our population who are suffering psychological distress as the aftermath of these laws. These laws had a very, very specific function, and a very specific objective as promulgated by Russell Pearce and some of these other folks and bright governor. That was to create an atmosphere of fear. To induce persons to leave. But what they didn't fundamentally get was that behind this is an underlying racialized dynamic in which it affects all Mexican origin populations to one degree or another. And especially if you have family members who may be undocumented or even residents who will be unsure of themselves even though they may have legal residency, will create such uncertainty that in fact they fear for -- They may be deported.

José Cárdenas: So how does this affect the rest of the population? People like Russell Pearce and even people who don't have his same animus will look at and it say so what?

Carlos Velez Ibánez: The so-what of that is that this country is supposedly based on the notion of equality, liberty, fraternity, as well as opportunity and the rights of being able to fulfill one's wishes without being detrimentally subjected to racialized comments, to racialized laws, and that is the so what. You have 34, 35% of the population in the state of Arizona being subjected to this kind of treatment in one way or the other.

José Cárdenas: Does have it political implications, in California when they had their proposition years ago, some political scientists think that's what turned the Hispanic population out at the polls. And has contributed to California's steady drift to the left, and certainly more democrat state than would it have been otherwise.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: There's no doubt about it. People are not going to forget. If you're a citizen and one of your family members has been subjected to such treatment you're not going to forget that. If our resident and you become a citizen you're not going to forget that. If you have an undocumented person you're not going to forget that. In addition to which the sheer demographics of this indicate in fact there's already a movement in that direction.

José Cárdenas: You think long hitch term this will show up at the polls?

Carlos Velez Ibánez: Absolutely.

José Cárdenas: What about short-term? At least in the more recent elections people were disappointed there wasn't greater turnout from the Hispanic community.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: You have an awful lot of fear being created in Arizona. Especially at the voting booth. There are many instances in which there are folks along the opposite side of the ledger standing outside and trying to prevent people from coming into the voting booths. So that you have this element of fear created in the state of Arizona is among the -- I'm from Tucson. I was raised in Tucson, my family is from Tucson, we have never seen such a disturbance, such a political and emotional disturbance since it in fact since operation wetback. I can tell you that as a 15-year-old kid, I used to see the round-ups in Tucson, and I have never seen anything like that. The atmosphere created in this state. This has continued on. The other part of this which is not the same as it was in the past, even with operation wetback, that is political careers have been built off the backs much the political uncertainty and the citizenship uncertainty of our populations. And that's never happened before in this state. There used to be at one particular point in time in this state, Republicans and Democrats that used to work across the aisles, that in fact you have people like Goldwater with whom a lot of people may not agree, but he was singularly responsible for the elimination of a lot of the discriminatory laws in the city of Phoenix. So these people had the vested interest of the state and its populations, these other people in fact like Russell Pearce, the other people like Arpaio and to certainly to a certain degree the present governor have built their political careers from the backs of the misery of undocumented people. And documented people's. And that's what makes it different. So you have a lot -- A lot of these candidates for governors at least four of them, who are not only to the right of the present governor, but in fact probably to the right of -- And I think however that is a short-term response to what is an inevitable change and shift in the political whims in this state. And hopefully back to the way in which things were much more equitable between persons of different political parties.

José Cárdenas: Let's talk about one of the other areas of research investigation by the school, which is a new approach in learning languages. And how that will affect the community.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: Our approach, we've just hired two new folks. A person who's focused on the cognitive development of English. Our position has been most of the way in which we have approached the learning of language, more importantly not just language learning but cognitive development, especially among Mexican origin children, has been basically wrong. Dual language programs, for example, have high levels of efficacy for all children. If you go to cave creek you'll see children who are scoring off the charts because of their dual language capacity. We know all the research shows in fact if you pay attention to the home language of the child and develop the other language they need in order to be able to communicate readily and to be able to succeed and achieve at universities, in fact they will score higher than other children who don't. So the bilingual multilingual child scores much higher on every measure that you, possibly think of. On the other hand --

José Cárdenas: In the past you had parents well intentioned who would insist their children speak English because they were afraid otherwise they would be hindered in school. And you're saying that was the wrong approach.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: I'm one of those. In fact I was spanked for every word -- In my generation, we were spanked for every word of Spanish we spoke in elementary school. And so what you'd learn very early on to associate pain with the only language you knew. And here's the language that's been spoken in this particular area since the 18th century, certainly New Mexico since the 16th Century.

José Cárdenas: So we no longer punish kids for speaking their native language but you are saying it's a plus.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: It's an absolute plus. In addition, what is not permitted to dual language learning for Spanish-speaking children who haven't passed the English examination. What happens is they put those children into so-called classes in which they're separated and segregated from other children, and imbued with English only. The problem with that is, is that they don't have a chance to interact with other children for they can learn the language of the playground, where they can learn the language of mathematics in English. These immersion programs just simply don't work.

José Cárdenas: So one of the things in school, that needs to change. Let's talk about quickly some of the programs, the new programs you've got going on. You mentioned one of them earlier.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: The connections program is directed towards providing -- The reason we're changing this program to a more stem associated program that provides digital communication for migrant children. So that when they move from place to place, they have access to programs that only not only maintains their skills and mathematics and in science and in English and other areas of the curriculum, but enhances it. So that's the connections program.

José Cárdenas: You've also got some exciting information about Ford fellowships.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: Yes so we've been working on the analysis of the impact of the Ford fellowship programs on American institutions. And one of the little things we found out, for example, only one cohort that we've looked at for over a 20-year period, they generated more than $165 million dollars in grants. From the sciences, from the humanities and social sciences. And the impact of that program has been absolutely enormous. Because it's about 75% of our sample of about 300 board fellows, about 75% said they could not have entered the doctoral programs without this program. The impact it's made on American institution USA crossed board, humanities, social sciences, has been absolutely enormous.

José Cárdenas: There's so things that have happened under your leadership with the school, we talked about some of the areas of research, some of the new programs. I'd like to end by talking about the impact of the school itself.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: The impact of the school is in fact across the board. It's internationally, in terms of our relationships in connection with Mexican institutions are first rate. We have a number of -- We have masters students from University of Guadalajara, Sonora and other places who stay with us for periods of three to six months. So our international connections have been very intense.

José Cárdenas: So the school has raised the status of the University as well as focusing on an area of research very important to this part of the country.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: Such that in fact that September the 23rd of 2015 we're going to have a major conference at oxford University. We're having a joint conference between Oxford University and the school of Transborder studies.

José Cárdenas: It sounds like you've done a terrific job. I know you'll be doing other things in the near future. When you get back from your other studies and working on a book I understand, we'll have you back on the show.

Carlos Velez Ibánez: Very well. Thank you so much.

José Cárdenas: It's great to see you.




Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez:ASU Regents' Professor and Director, School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University;

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