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Celebrating Cleveland Humanities Festival with Mr. Akhtar; Know Your Rights Presentation with Professor Chand

On Monday, March 27th, we attended two events which featured fascinating speakers; one of which was a first-generation American playwright and the other an immigration scholar.

The first event was part of the Cleveland Humanities Festival and took place at Tinkham Veale University Center at CWRU. It featured Mr. Ayad Akhtar who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for his play "Disgraced" which concerned four people of diverse backgrounds getting together for the evening and clashing when the discussion turned to politics and religion. Mr. Akhtar also received great acclaim for his novel "American Dervish" published in 2012 which was about a Pakistani-American boy growing up in Milwaukee where Mr. Akhtar himself was raised as the child of two doctors who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in the late 1960's.

Along these lines, Mr. Akhtar's parents expected him to become a neurosurgeon but he was inspired to pursue a career in literature by a one of his high school teachers who he described as a cross between Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society" and the Oracle in "The Matrix".

Mr. Akhtar was interviewed on this day by Professor Justine Howe from the CWRU Dept. of Religious Studies and Mr. Robert Barry Fleming, Associate Artistic Director at the Cleveland Play House.

Although Mr. Akhtar talked a little bit about how he grew up not seeing himself as "the other" at all but what it was like being considered "the other" after 9/11, it seemed like what he really wanted to do during his short time at Tinkham Veale was to urge us all to embrace our humanity by pursuing our curiosities just as his high school teacher motivated him to do. In fact, he answered one question being advising the questioner to choose books to read that "resonate feeling" with him/her as an individual instead of their social content.

True, Mr. Akhtar wrote from his own experiences but he did not want to labeled as someone who "looks at the world through the Muslim lens." Instead, what he wanted most to do, and it seems like he has been doing this quite successfully, is to show Muslims as being no different from anyone who is not a Muslim which is wonderfully human.

Right after we left Tinkham Veale we hurried over to the Storefront near 42nd Street and Lorain Avenue to attend a presentation sponsored by the Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network titled "Know Your Rights!" which featured as a speaker Professor Daniel E. Chand from the Political Science Dept. at KSU who was dressed very casually in a comfortable looking shirt and trousers. 

Mr. Don Bryant, who coordinated the program, said of Mr. Chand that with his resume "you'd think that he would be wearing a suit and a tie."

Indeed on the flyer we were given it was written that Professor 'Danny' Chand "received his Ph.D. in the Policy Management specialization at the University of Arkansas and has a master's degree in Political Science with an emphasis in Community Development from Illinois State University. His primary areas of interest are policy implementation (specifically relating to immigration policy) and political activities by nonprofits. His current research projects include an examination of 501(c) nonprofits involved in federal elections and a study of disparities in immigration court outcomes..."

Even though part of Prof. Chand's presentation concerned knowing one's rights when confronted by law enforcement, the overall thrust of it was how the lines between criminal justice and immigration law enforcement have become increasingly blurred over the last twenty years starting with "Section 287G" in 1996 which allows for state and law enforcement to become deputized to enforce immigration policy and continuing through the very controversial "Secure Communities" program which flags people arrested (not convicted) of often minor offensives and asks that they be detained until ICE can get there if they are suspected of residing in the United States illegally.

Professor Chand encouraged us to ask all of the questions that we wanted and some of the things that we discussed were:

***the ins and outs of DACA; Professor Chand said that he would advise those who are already registered in the program to continue with he although he believed their fears to be legitimate particularly in light of the Trump Administration

***how the Obama administration may have deported a record number of people but this was largely due to policies enacted by the Bush administration that President Obama was a bit slow on refuting

***the character of the agents of the Border Patrol and ICE; some just might be sympathetic to those they are apprehending even though their unions endorsed President Trump

***what one can do if one if undocumented and apprehended by ICE; how the immigration courts are so crowded that one just might have time to put a case together for himself/herself

***sanctuary cities and how, contrary to what some people would like us to believe, they will cooperate with ICE if it involves a party with a serious criminal record

***why an undocumented person's marriage to a U.S. citizen does not automatically ensure citizenship or even allowing the person to remain in the United States

***the future of immigration policy under the Trump administration; obviously not too good for our side at least for the first couple of years; yet, who knows what could happen if the President takes a severe beating in the 2018 elections

What we really liked about Prof. Chand was that even though immigration policy was his expertise, he did not profess to be an expert on immigration law. Moreover, he recognized that each case is a different entity and avoided making definite statements about the laws themselves.

When asked about what an undocumented could/should do to achieve a legal status and to be allowed to live in the United States, the first words out of his mouth were to see an immigration attorney.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC