By Peter Schmidt | Chronicle of Higher Ed
May 1, 2010
The American Educational Research Association's governing council voted overwhelmingly Friday to no longer hold meetings or conferences in the state of Arizona in response to that state's passage of a controversial law calling for police officers to demand proof of legal immigration status of people whom they suspect of being undocumented aliens.
The resolution, approved by every voting member of the council except one who abstained, argues that the new law "is so broad in its reach and enforcement powers that it can have an adverse impact on the freedom to travel or assemble without encroachment." It says the association "will no longer hold meetings or conferences in the state of Arizona until such time as this law is rescinded or AERA otherwise revisits the issue."
At a news conference on Saturday held to announce the adoption of the new resolution, Kris D. Gutiérrez, the association's president-elect, said the council voted on the measure under an organizational bylaw allowing the group to define the appropriate conditions for its meeting locations and take the safety and security of those who will participate into account. Although the group had no plans to hold its annual conference in Arizona any time soon, it routinely holds smaller organizational meetings and other events at Arizona State University, and its leadership was concerned that its members might be stopped or detained by state or local law enforcement officers, she said.
As Ms. Gutiérrez and other AERA representatives at the news conference discussed the resolution, however, it became clear that their objections to the new Arizona law extended well beyond concerns about their members' ability to travel freely without fear of intimidation or run-ins with the police.
Ms. Gutiérrez, an Arizona native who is a professor of learning sciences and literacy in the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wore a sign on her conference name tag that said "I could be illegal." She said her organization plans to use its resources to disseminate research on the negative effects of the law, which she sees as likely to impede researchers' efforts to study immigrants who will be fearful of identifying themselves as such.
Patricia Gándara, a professor of education at the University of California at Los Angeles and co-director of the Civil Rights Project there, said, "We are very concerned that Arizona is turning into the new apartheid South." She said the group also worries that the law will derail international education efforts, especially those involving the United States and Mexico, and make immigrant families in Arizona fearful to venture out to send their children to school.
Felice J. Levine, the executive director of AERA, criticized the Arizona measure as not grounded in empirical social-science research on its likely impact on law enforcement and people in that state. She said her organization's leaders feel obliged to speak out against the measure because they fear it will have a chilling effect on research.