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Civic Engagement - Austin Aulai

Taboo Talks: Immigration Reform & the Importance of Voting


For my civic engagement assignment I attended a conference/panel on the subject of
Immigration. The event took place at SLCCs Taylorsville campus in the Student Event Center
on October 24th, 2016 at 11:00am Mountain Time. The events proper name was Taboo Talks:
Immigration Reform & the Importance of Voting. The panel had four guests along with a host
that would ask them to cover topics along with bringing different news to our attention that
happened around the world. In addition to this anyone in the audience was able to ask any
questions regarding the topic or involved with the topic itself to either the panelists or audience.
My civic engagement project can be related to SLCCs learning outcomes in a few
different ways. The two that stand out the most are:
- Students develop the knowledge and skills to become community engaged
learners and scholars.
- Students develop the knowledge and skills to work with others in a professional
and constructive manner.
These two learning outcomes relay best with my topic for a variety of reasons, firstly because
the topic at hand is something that directly relates to the community itself and secondly,
because this topic does require communication with others in a professional and constructive
manner due to the sensitivity of this topic. Immigration plays a major role in the community in so
many different aspects and thus it was very easy to connect to these two learning outcomes.
I believe this topic correlates directly to our readings on Identity, Privilege, and
Inequalities. Immigration is normally due to people wanting to escape a harsh reality of where
they are currently located, whether it's due to something natural like the weather or geographic
location, or something man-made; government, laws, war, poverty, etc. When it comes to this,
immigration can make it very easy to give an identity to those trying to become part of another
nation, (this topic was specific to the United States and immigration into our country). Not only
does it make it easy to put a label on people, it can also create inequalities between citizens and
immigrants.
For example, in recent times it has been easy to say things like, Mexicans steal our jobs or
Muslims are infiltrating our country to hurt us, thus creating inequalities between us and giving
them a very negative false identity.
These false identities and inequalities eventually lead to what many call white-privilege,
when only a few hundred years ago Europeans were doing the same to escape the hard
realities of their countries/nations at the time. All of these plus media, fear, and radical thoughts
can lead to hate and fear of those different than us, which can put quite a hinderance on
immigration.

My participation at the event was definitely an eye-opener for me, as I had never really
had any thought on how I would leave a place that may no longer be safe or prosperous for me.
Going back to my initial thoughts in the pre-flection, I had hoped that there would be an
immigrant with personal stories to share at the panel - to my surprise all 4 of the speakers were
immigrants from different countries. Some of them very early in life as a child, others later in life
as an adult.
Each of their stories were unique in their own way, one person was not even able to speak
English when they came here, I couldnt fathom going to a place to start a new life and being
able to not communicate with 99% of the population. Another speaker came from an early life
surrounded by gangs, drugs, and corruption; moving here was purely for safety for them and
they were happy to be able to move with their lives.
All of these different speakers and their stories were able to make me feel and think in
many ways that I had not ever thought of before. Maybe I myself am privileged because I was
born into this country and have always taken it for granted. If I were to have the opportunity to
do it again, I certainly would. It was not only interesting to hear how others have gone through
life, but it was eye-opening to the real world problems some people face. Where the questions
like Will I be able to feed my family? or Will it be safe to sleep tonight? are a real thought that
occurs within these individuals daily. This experience overall has made me a little more humble
and a lot more grateful for the life that I have.
Looking back at my Pre-flection and comparing my current thoughts with my previous
thoughts it was interesting to see that I was mostly spot-on with how I felt things would go. All
the hopes I had were pretty much achieved. Im pretty happy with how this event turned out, as
originally I overlooked this activity because I thought it might be something a little too mundane
for myself or this assignment. My Pre-flection expectations were almost fully met, I know I was
pretty open-minded for this activity since I didnt exactly know what to expect.
To recap on my Civic Engagement assignment, I was able to learn more about
immigration from the immigrants themselves. My favorite quote that I took down from one of the
immigrant panelists, when discussing the difficulty of legal immigration, was: We need to ask
ourselves why they cant, instead of why they dont. This quote really was one of the parts that
got my mind moving on the topic, it is always easy to brush off the topic of illegal immigrants
with they should follow the process to do it legally when in reality there is so much
bureaucratic hoops to jump through that are almost impossible to jump through.
In closing, I believe everyone should educate themselves on the topic of immigration,
because almost all of us are at one point in their family history immigrants when it involves the
United States of America, (plus many other places in the world).