Constitution Day brings Yale Professor to Charleston

(Photo courtesy of StevenANichols via Flickr Creative Commons)

Last Thursday, Harvard graduate and Yale Law School professor Peter Schuck delivered a lecture entitled “Myths and Realities of Immigration Law, Policy and Reform” to College of Charleston students and faculty at the Physician’s Memorial Auditorium in observance of Constitution Day, a national holiday celebrating the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

The lecture, sponsored by the college’s Pre-Law Program and co-sponsored by the Office of Academic Experiences, the First-Year Experience and the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science began at 7:30 p.m. Schuck began by introducing Constitution Day and the contents of his lecture.

The first official celebration of Constitution Day, then called “Citizenship Day,” took place on Sept. 17, 1911, which Chuck explained was the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd passed an amendment to the Omnibus spending bill, renaming the holiday “Constitution and Citizenship Day” (often shortened to simply “Constitution Day”) and requiring all publicly funded educational institutes to provide educational programs on the Constitution each year in celebration.

Schuck’s lecture served as the described “educational program” for the college.

In the beginning of his lecture, Schuck said, “The fact that our Constitution has endured 215 years is an extraordinary miracle. There is no other phrase that adequately describes it.”

Schuck proceeded by linking the Constitution’s contents to immigration. He said that immigration is “the infusion of new Americans with great energy and great rigor. Immigrants exhibit patriotic feelings of obligation to their new home and government and thanksgivings for the opportunities presented to them upon their arrival.”

During the lecture’s introduction, Schuck explained the passage and contents of the Immigration Act of 1965 as well as immigration’s role in American society.

Schuck said, “America is by far the most immigrant-friendly nation in the world.”

He went on to describe the 10 most common myths and misunderstandings about immigration, giving a description of each and evidence as to why each was a false assumption.

One misunderstanding Schuck spoke of was the idea that immigration is a dominant, hot-button issue for most Americans.  Schuck said that although the polls rank immigration as the fourth most important issue to Americans, it is much further down on the list for some individuals.

He also exposed the common assumption that U.S. immigration has become more restrictive in recent years by revealing that there have been no significant legal restrictions on immigration put in place since 1996. In response to claims that the American undocumented population is growing, Schuck said studies show it is actually shrinking.

The final section of Schuck’s lecture included his own thoughts regarding immigration reform, all of which were cited as coming from one of his fourteen published books or articles he had written for publications such as The New York Times.

He discussed President Obama’s deferred action program, questioning its legality, and suggested that the government should do a better job of ensuring guest workers their return. He said, “Government enforcement [of immigration] clearly needs to be strengthened. They have botched the job.”

Schuck concluded his lecture at 8:50 p.m., leaving 10 minutes for questions from audience members before the reception that followed in Randolph Hall.

Schuck said, “Immigration is not a problem; it’s an opportunity.  It is our responsibility as Americans to make sure that the flow of immigration continues…but that those [immigrants] contribute to society.”

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