With plight of immigrants and refugees an issue of rising concern, the UO Center for the Study of Women in Society will host a roundtable bringing together academic experts and Oregon-based immigration lawyers.
The discussion, “Achieving Justice: Gendered Violence, Displacement, and Legal Access in Guatemala and Oregon,” will be from 2-4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13, in the Ford Lecture Hall at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
It will help educate the public on immigration and refugee status, focusing on the indigenous women of Guatemala who are fleeing gendered violence at home to find a new life in the United States.
“A lot of them come not knowing they can seek asylum,” said UO political science professor Erin Beck, an organizer of the event who has been researching women in Guatemala for 10 years. “The legal precedent is pretty new; it was 2009 when the legal precedent was set which allowed women to seek asylum on the basis of being a battered woman. So that’s one barrier to being able accessing asylum — they don’t even know to ask.”
Other speakers are UO anthropology professor Lynn Stephen, who is often asked to be an expert witness in immigration cases involving people seeking asylum; professor Gabriela Martínez, of the UO School of Journalism and Communication; and immigration attorneys Vannia Glasinovic, Christopher Anders and Anna Ciesielski.
Beck said the long-term goal of the project is to compare women’s experiences in Guatemala with their experiences in Oregon and to find out under what circumstances women will stay to seek justice in their own country and when they will simply leave.
“Guatemala has a new system, started in 2010, of specialized courts that only deal with violence against women,” she said. “So we see this as one potential path that women can travel to seek security and justice. The other is fleeing as a refugee to the United States.”
In the morning, before the public event, the speakers will sit down and have a private discussion, letting lawyers learn more about what their clients have been through and learning more about the lawyers’ experiences. At the roundtable, they can share what they’ve learned with the audience.
Beck will focus on what is going on in Guatemala, Stephen will talk about the obstacles people face in their attempt to become U.S. citizens, Martínez will discuss the role of the media in shaping the public’s perception and the lawyers will speak about the women’s experiences once they reach America.