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College of Social Work


2019 Newman Lecture with Gaby Pacheco

Newman Lecture Features Immigrant Rights Advocate

Feb. 28, 2019
Chris Woodley • cwoodley@mailbox.sc.edu 

While immigration continues to be an important issue in Washington, D.C., the College of Social Work’s I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice hosted their 2019 Newman Lecture Wednesday evening with a nationally-recognized immigrant rights advocate.

Gaby Pacheco, director of advocacy, communications and development at TheDream.US, presented, What Google Won’t Tell You About Immigration, at Capstone Hall. Her presentation focused on reasons why immigration is a divisive national topic and why political solutions are not working.

“Our country has allowed immigration policies to be dictated more on the needs of the workforce and businesses, instead of communities and people affected,” said Pacheco. “We historically see that whenever the country’s economy is doing well, there is no longer a need of immigrants and they are pushed out. But when the country needs immigrants in the workforce, they are brought in but only temporarily.”  

Regarding advocacy, Pacheco believes immigration policies are different because they affect people instead of objects.

“With every immigration issue, there is pressure to create one policy that will fix everything for eternity,” said Pacheco. “But that is not reality and how it works with immigration. There is always a need for new people and thinking that one policy or law will work is not the best solution.”

Pacheco was eight-years-old in 1993 when she immigrated to the United States with her family from Guayaquil, Ecuador. They arrived with tourist visas but were unable to secure legal resident status. In 2005, Pacheco and other students from Miami Dade College founded a Florida-based immigrant youth group advocating for tuition equity and immigrant rights. Pacheco and three other immigrant students led the Trail of Dreams in 2010, a four-month walk from Miami to Washington, D.C. to call attention to the plight of immigrant families under the threat of deportation. She also spearheaded efforts that led to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012.

Pacheco’s presentation included a brief history of immigration restrictions in U.S. history and how individuals can challenge the status quo to move the immigration issue forward. This included asking questions, talking about and meeting people affected by immigration and pushing for reform.    

“There is so much dissention on the immigration issue because we do not want to talk about this subject,” said Pacheco. “We need to have more conversations about immigration and listen to those with concerns, such as people who may be categorized as ‘anti-immigrant.’ They may have misrepresentations because they have never met an immigrant. But once they listen to an immigrant’s story, their ideas and perceptions may change. At the end of the day, we can all recognize we have an issue that needs to be solved.”