March 20, 2018 — The keynote speaker at the Yale L. Rosenberg Memorial Lecture illustrated how immigration policy can help combat racism recently at the University of Houston Law Center.
Professor Gabriel "Jack" Chin of the UC Davis School of Law spoke on the topic: "Still a Nation of Immigrants? Rethinking Immigration Policy in the Modern Era." Chin credited the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which helped eliminate discrimination against immigrants of various faiths and ethnicities.
"In my view, it was the most effective civil rights law of the 20th century," Chin said. "It provided that immigrants would be admitted based on family connections to people in the U.S. or based on job skills and it worked. Before 1965, three quarters or more of the immigrant's screened were Caucasian because of racial gerrymandering.
"Since 1965, three quarters of the immigrants screened have been people of color from Asia, Africa and Latin America with no bias or favor of particular countries. Instead, people are considered on their individual merits."
Bringing the conversation to present day, referenced the ongoing discourse surrounding immigration. He said some immigration policies being promoted now are consistent with attitudes of the American people 50 years ago.
"The current controversies that we're experiencing and the current policy proposals being advanced represent a final trial, a final confrontation, about what is an open question in U.S. immigration policy," Chin said. "Namely, that is whether the United States is a nation of nations or with respect to immigration, the U.S. should permanently have a tie to the white countries of Europe.
"The way that I understand the moment we are in now is that this is the first time when both the people of the United States and the political elites who passed the 1965 immigration act will evaluate immigration policy and decide whether we're a white nation or not. I believe that it's going to come out against racism and in favor of economic development."
Chin, the Edward L. Barrett Jr. Chair of Law, Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law, and director of clinical Legal Education at UC Davis, teaches in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, and race and the law, in addition to immigration law. His work has been cited in
three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and his scholarship published in numerous law reviews and journals. He and his students have worked on behalf of minority civil rights, tried felony cases and argued criminal appeals.
Additional commentary was provided by the Law Center's Geoffrey Hoffman, a clinical associate professor and director of the Law Center's Immigration Clinic, Jeronimo Cortina, an associate professor of political science at the University of Houston, and Pamela Anne Quiroz, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies and Professor of Sociology at the University of Houston.
The lecture is named for the late Law Center Professor Yale L. Rosenberg who taught administrative law, civil procedure, federal jurisdiction, professional responsibility, and Jewish Law. He was the first Law Center professor to receive the Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Houston. He passed away in 2002.
The Yale L. Rosenberg Memorial Fund was established to recognize and foster excellence at the Law Center. The endowment is used to fund a student writing prize and bring distinguished speakers to the Law Center.