History Matters Discussion On Old Immigration and New Immigration


By Abby Anderko

The history department hosted their third and final History Matters lecture series In honor of Dr. Timothy Meagher, an American immigration and ethnic history professor at the Catholic University of America in the May Gallery of the Mullen Library. A debate examining the nature of immigration into the United States was examined by a panel of three professors, including Meagher, showed two distinct points of view: that of the Mexican immigration today and the reaction towards Irish immigration during the 19th century.

The History Matters lecture series brings to light different modern topics that connect to historical events, to show the negative and positive impacts that history has. This lecture series is intended to demonstrate how knowing about the past and the present can help to move in the right direction in the future. Throughout the Fall of 2018, the university’s history department has been sponsoring these events.

Other speakers on the panel included Dr. Julia Young, a history professor at Catholic and Dr. Katherine Benton-Cohen, a history professor at Georgetown University. Young and Benton-Cohen specialize in current Mexican immigration today, both having written books on the topic. To balance out the debate, Meagher specialized in Irish immigration history during the late 1800s to mid-1900s.

Cited as “new” and “old” immigration, the speakers each gave a 25 minute presentation on their individual specialties, noting where the similarities and differences are in current and past immigration trends.

Today, Mexican immigrants are the single largest immigration group in the United States with their numbers just less than 13 million immigrants. About 50% are undocumented or not here legally. However, the Mexican immigration question has been steadily on a rise. Young described the system that exists as building walls and increasing regulations, while at the same time welcoming immigrants. Without immigrants, many of our industries that rely on their labor, such as agriculture and dairy would not fall apart.

The “Immigration Problem”, as Benton-Cohen titled it, is a self invented problem that the U.S. has imposed on itself. Today, historians throughout the U.S. are looking at immigration through a different lense. In 2017, the movie Bisbee 17 documents the tragic deportation of immigrants in Bisbee, Arizona. Benton-Cohen worked on the project of its historian.

The Catholic University and the rest of the Catholic Church have taken a different stance on immigration than the current White House administration.

Archbishop Gomez who gave the Class of 2018 Catholic U commencement address is the archbishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the largest in the U.S. Gomez champions respect and dignity for immigrants.

“We need to remember that the United States of America has always been an immigrant nation. Our humanity and our nation will be judged by our response to this new generation of immigrants.” Archbishop Gomez’s website said.  

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