Smith alumna talks deportation and immigration justice

Sunnie Yi Ning ’19
Assistant News Editor

Julia Xia ’19
Contributing Writer

On April 1 in the Lewis Center Global Studies Lounge, Northwestern Professor and Smith alumna, Jacqueline Stevens ’84, spoke about the injustice of deportation laws in the U.S. The lecture, Government Illegals: Deportation and the Rule of Law, discussed how the failings of statutory and constitutional law in the U.S. have led to such injustice.

Professor Stevens explained that laws are meant to mobilize effort against injustice; one must focus on injustice, rather than justice, because it is important not only to prove correctness but also to challenge wrongdoings.

Stevens’ lecture focused also on the specific case of Mark Lyttle, a UnitedStates citizen who was deported to Mexico in 2008. Lyttle, who has cognitive disabilities and does not speak a word of Spanish, spent 125 days on the streets of Mexico and later Honduras and Nicaragua. A U.S. embassy official was able to help Lyttle secure a passport and return to the U.S. in 2009.

After his return, Lyttle still faced threats from Immigration and CustomsEnforcement (ICE) before the case against him was finally terminated.

Stevens’ “200 Percent American,” is a literary non-fiction project aboutLyttle. In 2008, ICE denied that it ever happened. Stevens pointed out that ICE does not keep track of how many U.S. citizens have been detained — instead, it refuses to acknowledge that the detainment and deportation of U.S. citizens ever happens.

What happened to Lyttle is not as uncommon as one would like to think. In 2010 fourteen-year-old Jakadrien Turner, an American citizen living in Dallas, was deported to Colombia after assuming a false name when questioned by police.

Stevens spoke of Lorenzo Palma who after serving his sentence at a Texas prison, was transferred to an immigrant detention facility despite his U.S. citizenship. Palma’s case was terminated in Jan. 2016.

However, Roberto Dominguez’s case, which began in 1999, is still ongoing. Dominguez, despite having been born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was deported to the Dominican Republic after immigration officials coerced him into claiming to have been born abroad.

During her lecture, Stevens also exposed the abuse of people in detention facilities. They are often forced to work for only $1 per day under brutal working conditions. Stevens’ article, “One Dollar per Day: The Slaving Wages of Immigration Jail, 1942 to Present,” further explores the abuses inflicted by private prisons.

At the conclusion of her lecture, Stevens told the audience, “Do not think of the institution as something you need to please.” She encouraged the audience to be proactive in making positive social change and to understand the roots of injustice in the U.S. legal system.

Stevens received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013 for her project, “200 Percent American.” This narrative about Lyttle’s detainment and subsequent deportation also draws inspiration from Miguel Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”.

She is also the author of “Reproducing the State and States without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals.” Stevens publishes additional research, based on the testimony of individuals who have been detained or deported, on flawed government actions in her blog “States without Nations”.

Stevens is also the founding director of the Deportation Research Clinic at Northwestern University.

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