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Immigration Policy and its Impact Topic of UW Symposium Sept. 17-18

September 10, 2014
Man smiling
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas is the keynote speaker at an immigration symposium Sept. 17-18 at the University of Wyoming.

National experts will share their views about the effects of immigration policies during a symposium scheduled Sept. 17-18 at the University of Wyoming.

The symposium, titled “Where Are We Now? Immigration Policy and Its Impact from a Wyoming and a National Perspective,” is free and open to the public. Most events take place in the UW Conference Center at the Hilton Garden Inn. The UW American Heritage Center (AHC) sponsors the two-day event.

Immigration touches on crucial issues of the changing work force, the role citizens want to play in the world and cultural identity, says UW AHC archivist Leslie Waggener, one of the conference organizers.

Topics to be discussed are nationhood, citizenship and belonging; values and social otherness; borders; questions of social justice; individual, national and cultural identities; ways in which people reinvent themselves, their cultures and their worlds in new contexts; and the role language plays in controversial issues such as assimilation and education.

The symposium begins Wednesday, Sept. 17, with a panel discussion at 6 p.m. in the AHC, located in the Centennial Complex, 2111 Willett Drive. Panelists will look at immigration through different angles related to the humanities, including culture, art and music.

The AHC and the UW student organization Movimiento Estuduantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) sponsor the event.

UW President Dick McGinity and AHC Director Mark Greene will give opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, in Salon C of the UW Conference Center. Wyoming retired U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson follows with reflection remarks.

Simpson and Romano Mazzoli, a Democratic representative from Kentucky, helped create the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which also is known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. An act of Congress that reformed United States immigration law, it was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan Nov. 6, 1986.

Other speakers throughout the day include UW faculty members; others from various universities; UW students; representatives of entities that focus on immigration issues; and Ruben Navarette, a prominent columnist whose syndicated column is distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in a groundbreaking essay published in The New York Times Magazine, is the symposium’s keynote speaker.

Vargas will speak at a luncheon Thursday, Sept. 18, at 1:30 p.m. in Salon DE of the UW Conference Center. The Wyoming Humanities Council funds Vargas’ presentation.

Vargas will share details of his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist; and his journey inward as he reconnects with his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in person in more than 20 years. With anecdotes from both his own story -- and the struggles of countless other undocumented immigrants in America -- Vargas explores one of the most divisive questions facing the country today: “How do you define ‘American?’”

His 2011 article stunned media and political circles around the country and attracted worldwide coverage. He has since testified at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform, and has been at the forefront of challenging the media’s coverage of undocumented immigrants.

Born in the Philippines and raised in the United States since age 12, Vargas was part of the Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. He also has worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Daily News and the Huffington Post.

Vargas wrote, produced and directed the autobiographical 2013 film “Documented” that aired on CNN. The documentary detailed his own story against the political backdrop of the stalled immigration debate and highlights the pain of his own family separation and the frustration of unrealized potential weighing on the estimated 11.7 undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

For a complete symposium schedule, visit the website at

Hear UW Archivist Leslie Waggener discuss some of the speakers and programs at the UW immigration symposium.Hear UW Archivist Leslie Waggener discuss some of the speakers and programs at the UW immigration symposium.

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