Penn Arts and Sciences

Who Should be an American? The Past and Future of Immigration Policy (Mae Ngai, Tamar Jacoby, Joseph Berger, Jennifer Rodriguez)

Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm

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Co-sponsored by the National Museum of American Jewish History and the University of Pennsylvania Jewish Studies Program, with generous support from the Arlene and Stanley Ginsburg Family Foundation.

IN THIS KICKOFF EVENT FOR a year in which we will examine the many dimensions of immigration policy, and in conjunction with the National Museum of Jewish American History, Penn SSPF has brought together important perspectives on the past and future of immigration in this distinguished panel.  It ultimately explores whether, in efforts to maintain America's longstanding status as a nation of immigrants, the emphasis should be on the economic benefit for the U.S. or social justice for those who seek to live here.

Mae M. Ngai, Professor of History and Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies at Columbia University, is a U.S. legal and political historian interested in questions of immigration, citizenship, and nationalism. She is author of the award winning Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004) and The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America (2010).  Ngai has written on immigration history and policy for the Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and the Boston Review. Before becoming a historian she was a labor union organizer and educator in New York City, working for District 65-UAW and the Consortium for Worker Education.  She is now working on Yellow and Gold: The Chinese Mining Diaspora, 1848-1908, a study of Chinese gold miners and racial politics in the nineteenth-century California, the Australian colony of Victoria, and the South African Transvaal.

Tamar Jacoby is president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of small business owners working to advance better immigration law. She is a nationally known journalist and author. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The Weekly Standard and Foreign Affairs, among other publications, and she is a regular guest on national television and radio.  She is author of Someone Else’s House: America’s Unfinished Struggle for Integration, and editor of Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means To Be American, a collection of essays about immigrant integration.

From 1989 to 2007, she was a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Before that, she was a senior writer and justice editor for Newsweek. From 1981 to 1987, she was the deputy editor of The New York Times op-ed page.

Jennifer Rodriguez is Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, a new city agency created in 2013 by Mayor Michael Nutter.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Boston University and a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the Mayor's Office, Rodriguez managed a more than $200 million portfolio as Vice President of Financial Services with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, and served as deputy vice president at Asociación de Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) where she oversaw the nonprofit organization’s human service programs and directed its sustainable communities initiative.

Joseph Berger (Moderator) has been a reporter, editor, and columnist for the New York Times since 1984. He was a religion correspondent from 1985 to 1987, covering the Pope's trip to ten American cities, and national education correspondent from 1987 to 1990, a period when American school curricula were under attack as too European-focused. From 1990 until 1993, he covered New York City's schools and colleges, when there were bitter controversies over condom distribution and AIDS instruction. He was the recipient of the 1993 Education Writers Association award for exposing abuses in bilingual education. In September 1999, he was appointed deputy education editor, and regularly writes a column on education. Prior to joining the Times, Mr. Berger worked as Newsday's religion writer, where he three times won the Supple Award given by the Religion Newswriters Association, its highest honor. Mr. Berger also worked at The New York Post, covering such assignments as the 1973 Middle East War and Watergate. From 1967 to 1971, he was an English teacher at a Bronx junior high school.

Berger is the author of several books, including Displaced Persons: Growing Up American After the Holocaust (2001), a memoir about his family's experience as refugees in New York in the 1950s and 1960s. The book was chosen as a notable book of the year byThe New York Times. His most recent book is The World in a City: Traveling the Globe through the Neighborhoods of the New New York (2007).

Berger was born in Russia in 1945, spent the postwar years in displaced persons camps in Germany and, after immigrating to the U.S., grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx. He is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, City College, and the Bronx High School of Science.

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