September 15, 2011
11-151

Jessica Pope
Communications Specialist

VSU Lecture Focuses on Georgia's Immigration Law

VALDOSTA --Valdosta State University’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program will tackle the controversial topic of illegal immigration during the first in a series of lectures at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 19, in the Student Union Theater. Faculty, staff, students and the general public are invited to attend.

“The Women’s and Gender Studies Program is an interdisciplinary field of scholarship devoted to the study of women and gender as a social construction, one that intersects with class, race, age, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, and sexual identity,” said Dr. Tracy Woodard-Meyers, program director. “Our faculty and students are both scholars and feminist activists, pursuing intellectual work and achievement with a vision of social justice. We do these lectures to bring awareness concerning inequalities and other injustices that are occurring in our society.”

During Monday’s lecture, “Borders, Immigrants and National Values: Shaping Immigration Policy to Benefit Everyone,” West Cosgrove, executive director of Project Puente in El Paso, Texas, will address why immigrants come to the United States, why they often come illegally, whether or not they take jobs from U.S. citizens, and more. He will speak for about an hour and then there will be a “talk-back” session allowing audience members the opportunity to ask questions or make comments. Woodard-Meyers said that students who studied on the Mexico-El Paso border with her this past summer will share what they saw and learned while researching and studying on the border and more.

Cosgrove previously spoke at VSU on this topic during the fall of 2010. He has been involved in Latin American social and political activism for nearly three decades and lived and worked for seven years in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, helping to develop a food cooperative and a local newspaper in an economically poor neighborhood.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, House Bill 87, into law on May 13, and the new law took effect on July 1.

“It is considered one of the nation’s toughest immigration measures in the country,” she added. “U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash Jr. granted a preliminary injunction temporarily enjoining two key provisions of the state’s restrictive immigration law ... Georgia’s farming industry, meanwhile, is taking a hit as a result of HB 87 with reports of thousands of undocumented farm laborers fleeing the state. One survey estimates that there are already 11,080 vacant farm positions in Georgia that need to be filled. Georgia Agribusiness Council said farms have lost $300 million to date and could lose up to $1 billion if they can’t find reliable farm workers. We have a large migrant farm worker Hispanic population in Echols County who are underpaid and overworked to ensure that we have food … The injustices that farm workers and other immigrants continue to face in our society is an atrocity. We need immigration reform that is humane and just. Therefore, we want to educate folks in our area about our new immigration laws and how this is impacting our community and our society as a whole.”

Through Project Puente (www.projectpuente.org), Cosgrove seeks “to work toward a more just world, specifically along the border between the United States and Mexico, through educational and spiritual programs and relationship-building opportunities offered primarily in the border community of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.” The nonprofit organization builds bridges of friendship through border immersion trips; talks and workshops on global economics and immigration, the current drug violence, and fair trade; a unique Spanish language immersion program; and more.

For more information, contact Dr. Tracy Woodard-Meyers, director of VSU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, at (229) 249-4842 or tmeyers@valdosta.edu.