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Clark Professor Writes about Latino Immigration

Katherine Hamilton, Scarlet Staff

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Dr. Heather Silber Mohamed, a full-time professor in Clark’s Political Science program, has recently published her book “The New Americans?: Immigration, Protest, and the Politics of Latino Identity”.

Her book focuses on the millions of Latinos who mobilized in 2006 to protest immigration policies in the United States. Silber Mohamed discusses the great diversity among the Latino population, and argues that these protests were unifying for the community.

Silber Mohamed began as a visiting professor at Clark in the fall of 2012 when she taught a course on Latino politics.

“I had a great group of students in that class and was impressed by their enthusiasm for politics and their passion for learning,” she said.

Her experience motivated her to continue on at Clark and become a full-time professor two years later.

Silber Mohamed explained that her passion for teaching political science stems from its relevance to real life, and its ability to give students knowledge that affects their own lives. This is exemplified in one of her classes: Women, Politics, and Public Policy, which focuses on gender and politics. The professor described the course’s relevance to all women in leadership positions, which has been applicable and valuable for many of her students outside of the classroom.

“I’m constantly changing my courses to keep up with the world around us. It’s exciting,” she said. “I always try to give students a scholarly context for understanding today’s political and policy challenges.”

Along with her interest in gender in politics, Silber Mohamed also had an interest in immigration policies from a young age, which inspired the topic of her new book. Her maternal grandmother came to America from Poland during WWII, and her father fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the 1960s.

“Immigration has always been a prevalent theme in my life,” she said.

Through her family, she has been able to study immigration on a personal level as well as a scholarly one, giving her a strong connection and intimate understanding of the topic.

She has experienced firsthand some of the subtleties and diversity within the Latino community which she explores in “The New Americans?” One such distinction is the result of a comparatively lenient immigration policy for Cubans compared to other Latino immigrants. Although the policy was dismantled during the Obama administration, Cuban immigrants are generally less concerned about immigration reform.

Along with personal understanding, Silber Mohamed’s political science involvement has been extremely valuable, including jobs in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

“There is so much energy and enthusiasm,” she said of her work in government. “When I first started in Capitol Hill, there was still a lot of bipartisan collaboration, so that also made it very rewarding.”

Silber Mohamed worked for three years in both branches, working with two different members of Congress and receiving her Master’s degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science along the way.

She mentioned how much easier it was to make progress with immigration policy when she was working there due to bipartisan partnership.

“Historically, immigration has been a policy area where advocates with different and distinct interests have come together to work for compromise,” she said.

Today, however, immigration policy has become more aligned with party ideals, and made collaboration more difficult, according to the professor. Silber Mohamed also added that the 2016 election and the Trump administration has added a new dimension to the issue.

She explained that the President’s severe positions on immigration and rhetoric about Latinos could actually further unify the community, and dissolve some of the disparities that she investigates in her book.

“When marginalized groups mobilize in response to hostile legislation, this mobilization does not always lead people to feel more excluded,” she said. “It can also be empowering and lead to a greater sense of belonging.”

Dr. Silber Mohamed will be teaching a new seminar on immigration politics in the spring 2018 semester.

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Clark Professor Writes about Latino Immigration