Back in 1973, when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School and joined the staff of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) at the U.S. Department of Justice, nary a law school in the U.S. taught a course in immigration law. The handful of law school courses on the subject were taught almost entirely by Adjunct Professors. Indeed, shortly after I joined the Board, they sent me to what was then the premier law school immigration course at Georgetown Law taught by none other than Charles Gordon, the legendary General Counsel of the “Legacy” INS.
Today, thanks to a great extent to the efforts of such noted “scholar/public servants” as Professor David Martin of the University of Virginia Law School, Professor Alex Aleinikoff, former Dean of Georgetown Law, and Professor Stephen Legomsky of Washington University Law School, some form of immigration law or immigration clinic is offered at most major U.S. Law Schools.
But, a serious void remains at the most critical level of education: undergraduate institutions. However, at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, Professor Jennifer Esperanza is blazing the way for the future. Her “ANTH 375: Migrants, Immigrants, and Refugees” Summer Session class is jumping head-on into creating constructive dialogue, understanding, and action on the most important issue facing America today: migration.
I had the pleasure of working with Professor Esperanza and her fourteen “super students” as a “Guest Professor” during three days in late May. The students hailed from different backgrounds and entered the class with varying levels of immigration experience and interest.
Some were there because of their own backgrounds or prior work with migrants; others were there . . . well, just because they were there. But, funny thing, by the end of my three days I couldn’t tell the difference. Everyone pitched in as a team, demonstrated sharp analytical skills, asked incisive questions, showed creativity and originality, and made spectacular group presentations on some very tough subjects. In other words, it was all the things I love: fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect, and teamwork!
Among our exercises: we watched and discussed the documentary “Credible Fear;” broke the group into two teams which designed and presented their own refugee systems based on competing “Mother Hen” and “Dick’s Last Resort” principles; and read, analyzed, and discussed two cases I had been involved in: the BIA’s landmark precedent Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996) recognizing for the first time “female genital mutilation” (“FGM”) as a basis for asylum in the United States, and another decision (which was published on the internet) from my time at the Arlington Immigration Court where I granted “particular social group” asylum to a family from El Salvador.
I teach as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law, one of the top law schools in the country. To my pleasant surprise, I found that Esperanza’s Beloit students were able to discuss the issues in a manner very similar to the class dialogue produced by some really great second-year, third-year, and graduate law students. Amazing!
I’m reproducing the results of the “Create Your Own Refugee System” exercise below, along with a class picture and some other pictures of my stay at Beloit (where my son-in-law, Daniel Barolsky, is a Professor of Musicology).
I also note that Professor Esperanza’s system and “real-world-oriented” approach to undergraduate education produces results, as in jobs in the real world! As featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Beloit College Magazine, Esperanza’s students were making an immediate difference: Jessica Slattery ’12, as a paralegal for the New York Legal Assistance Group in the Bronx, NY; Dan Weyl ’10, with the Heartland Alliance, an international human rights organization that provides resources for LGBT refugees resettling in the United States (as a footnote, following retirement I have been helping out the Heartland Alliance Washington, DC, office with various projects); Jane Choi ’14, working on the political team at the British High Commission in Cape Town, South Africa; Key Ishii ’12, working with African refugees in Israel; Angela Martellaro ’10, a licensed real estate agent at Chief Properties in Kansas City, MO, specializing in helping refugee families from Myanmar buy their first home; and Nikki Tourigny ’10, working for Hot Bread Kitchen, a wholesale nonprofit bakery in NYC that trains immigrant and minority women to work in the restaurant industry. Impressive!
On a personal note, I graduated in 1970 from Lawrence University, just up the road from Beloit in Appleton, WI. Like Beloit, Lawrence is a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.
I majored in History, minored in German, and spent a semester abroad in Germany. I found that a broad research and writing intensive, liberal arts eduction that promoted critical analysis and effective dialogue was the best possible preparation for all that followed: U.W. Law School, government attorney, private practice of immigration law, and several Senior Executive Service positions with the U.S. government, as well as Adjunct Professor positions. I spent the last 21 hears of my career as a U.S. Immigration Judge at the appellate and trial levels and served as Chairman of the BIA for six years. I can’t imagine a better preparation for the global perspective, analytical ability, and research and writing skills needed for judicial work than what I received at Lawrence. I just wish that someone like Professor Esperanza had been teaching her innovative approach to cultural anthropology when I was an undergrad!
Finally, I might add that Professor Esperanza and her husband Paul, who works in Administration at the College, are part of a a group of talented young professionals, which includes my daughter Anna, who teaches middle school English in the Beloit Public Schools, her husband Daniel, and their children, who have chosen to make their homes in Beloit, near the College. They enjoy and actively participate the in Beloit community and are big supporters of the “Beloit Proud” movement.
Here’s the pictorial version of my “tenure” at Beloit.
ANTH 375: Migrants, Immigrants, and Refugees” – Professor Jenn Esperanza — May 2017 — Beloit College, Beloit WI
Dan Arkes, Me, Joe Enes, “The Talking Statue,” Mark Hauptfleisch, Cynthia Escobedo, Yoon Ja Na, Rosa Ennison, Keila Perez, Gabe Perry
Jamie Manchen, Professor Jennifer Esperanza, Leanna Miller, Terra Allen, Abby Segal, Matt Tarpinian
Here are the results of the “Create Your Own Refugee System” Exercise. Click on the links for some really “great stuff:”
For “Dick’s Last Resort:”
For the “Mother Hens:”
And, here’s what the class looked like “in action,” as well as a picture of our dog Luna in front of the historic “Middle College Building” at Beloit.