This year’s Common Book, “Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream” by Joshua Davis, has prompted discussions throughout the Browning community on a variety of topics, including immigration. The book tells the tale of four Latino teenagers who, in 2004, arrived at the Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The young men were born in Mexico but raised in Arizona. Two of their high school science teachers had encouraged them to try to build an underwater robot; theirs was the winning entry. The rest of the book sheds light on the human side of immigration and education, two polarizing political issues.
On October 28 in conjunction with the Common Book, a group of panelists organized by Head Librarian Sarah Murphy spoke to boys in Forms II-VI about immigration law as part of a school assembly.
Panelists included the following:
- Christine DiDomenico, currently an assistant district attorney in New York, previously clerked at the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Newark, N.J. Ms. DiDomenico’s professional interests include international relations and human rights issues, particularly human trafficking, domestic violence, education, urban planning, community building, and gender and racial discrimination.
- Laura Berger, attorney with the Immigrant Women and Children Project at City Bar Justice Center, works with immigrant victims of violent crimes and assists them in immigration proceedings. Ms. Berger has also worked as a staff attorney at the Immigrant Protection Unit of the New York Legal Assistance Group.
- Clement Lee is a supervising attorney at Make the Road New York, a nonprofit organization dedicated to immigrant, poor and working class New Yorkers. Mr. Lee is involved in working with young people who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation. Mr. Lee was accompanied by another member of Make the Road who spoke about the personal benefits of programs like DACA, as well as the challenges he’s faced.
- Jerome, who accompanied Mr. Lee, is another member of Make the Road and spoke about the personal benefits of programs like DACA, as well as the challenges he’s faced.
The panelists described their day-to-day activities and the issues they deal with. Among other things, they spoke about gang culture and the fact that the fear of deportation can often discourage immigrants from becoming involved, contrary to what many believe; the ramifications of the fact that federal rules of evidence do not apply to non-citizens; that immigrants often have difficulty producing proper evidence – due to language barriers and not having access to information left behind in their home country – as to why they should not be deported; and the complications of the naturalization process, including the many forms that must be filled out. No doubt this presentation provided much to ponder in the classroom and among the school community.