Aviva Chomsky discusses current latin American issues


Photo Courtesy of Douglas Hazzard

Aviva Chomsky speaks to guests in Gooding Auditorium.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Nov. 2, the Division of Humanities hosted an event where Aviva Chomsky, a noted historian, activist, and Latin America specialist, gave a lecture on immigration issues at the Gooding Auditorium.

During the lecture, Chomsky discussed topics on criminalization, immigration, and citizenship in the 21st century in relation to the issues of colonialism, migration, race, labor, and systemic inequality in the United States.

Chomsky, coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts, has been involved in working on immigrant rights since the 1980s.

However, Chomsky’s experience with immigrants goes back to 1978, when she was living in Barcelona with Colombian exiles.

“I’ve been interested in working on immigrant rights for a long time, but what prompted me to write books was hearing people saying things that were just so wrong about immigration,” said Chomsky.

According to a 2009 history.com article, the United States experienced major waves of immigration during the colonial era, the first part of the 19th century and from the 1880s to 1920.

Throughout the lecture, Chomsky related the problems of immigration in the 21st century with the historical ramifications of these problems throughout those waves of immigration in the U.S.

“Immigration has always been a problem in the U.S., but the reality is that this is a very diverse society regardless of those problems with immigration,” said Jorge Majfud, professor of Latin American studies.

In light of the executive decision to declare an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the discussion on immigration policy has been amplified.

“It’s a very controversial issue of the time; I generally feel that it has been politicized,” said Douglas Hazzard, professor of Spanish.

Chomsky said she believes the current controversy over immigration is a distraction.

“Anti-immigrant sentiment is being used to distract people from a lot of social problems that people should be paying attention to,” she said. “Instead, they are being asked to blame everything on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, who are immigrants.”

Among the social problems being faced in the U.S. there are far more crucial issues Chomsky touched on such as economic inequality, racial inequality, unemployment, and low wages.

While the next generation will have to grapple with these issues, Chomsky promotes alternative solutions.

“I think immigrants have a lot to offer in coming to terms with those problems and solving them,” said Chomsky.

According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, the effects of immigration on the U.S. economy and native workers are positive, especially considering that baby boomers have begun retiring.

As reported in the study, immigration is helping America stay young and is reducing the burden of financing retirement benefits for a growing elderly population.

Hazzard says he believes such discussions are important in fostering a robust, intellectual climate on campus.

“The key of education is to be exposed to ideas from different people about different issues,” said Hazzard. “Education is not only what you get in the classroom, but it’s being exposed to what goes on outside of the classroom.”