Alumnus to lead discussion on immigration policy

Rebekah Alvey

An accomplished WKU alumnus will lead a discussion on immigration policy this afternoon, covering an overview of the current immigration system as well as the moral, political and economic aspects of immigration policy. 

Mario Nguyen, a 2012 WKU graduate, is currently in his third year at Harvard Law School. Nguyen was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Mexico, one of the Huffington Post’s Top 40 Latinos under 40 in Foreign Policy and was named Top Oralist at NYU 2015 Law Immigration Law Moot Court Competition.

Nguyen will lead the discussion through a video conference held in Mass Media and Technology Hall this afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

Nguyen described immigration policy as multifaceted and increasingly complex with today’s rhetoric. He said President Donald Trump and other lawmakers have tapped into people’s concerns and fears with immigrants and villainized a population. He said for many who have not prioritized immigration policy and worked to understand it, immigrants have become someone to blame for economic and crime issues.

“It’s important to understand they are people just like us,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said he hopes from his discussion and increased talk about immigration, people can have a better understanding of the system of immigration and become more informed voters.

He said he anticipates some resistance considering some of the attitudes and beliefs he witnessed during his time at WKU.

Nguyen is the son of two migrants; his mother is from Mexico, and his father is from Vietnam. He said because of his background he encountered problems in college from financial aid and racism among students.

Nguyen explained he chose to go to Mexico for his Fulbright scholarship because he wanted to better understand where he came from. He said he was able to witness the political climate and how that shapes what we do in America.

Nguyen said he became heavily involved in the Latino immigrant community through a class taught by Spanish professor Sonia Lenk.

He said the class was purely project-based, which got students involved in the community by getting children of immigrant families in touch with higher education. Nguyen said he was in charge of social media and worked on projects like a video explaining how to apply for financial aid.

Lenk said immigration is an important topic to discuss today because of all of the misconceptions and the relevance it has to everyone.

“Almost everyone is basically an immigrant,” Lenk said.

Lenk said many people think immigrants choose to break the law and don’t realize the consequences some immigrants face if deported.

The series of discussions about Latin American issues has been an annual event for 11 years, covering topics like Left Wing Populism in Latin America and specific countries like Cuba and Columbia.

The events are sponsored by Hilltopper Organization of Latin American Students, HOLAS. Lenk said the purpose of this series and organization is to make the region more visible and understood.

Nguyen said he is excited to hear feedback and questions from WKU students but is also expecting some negative responses because of the issue. He said because we are taught certain moral values towards immigrants and the process of legalization, people are more resistant to immigration.

“We act like we did something to earn our citizenship aside from being born here,” Nguyen said.

Lenk said she does this work to give back to the community and believes it is a responsibility to society to understand these topics.

Nguyen said he was also excited to give back to WKU, who he said has been a big supporter of making dreams happen, and hopefully inspire others.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]