Conference on Latino/a Issues

Immigration reform may have stalled in Congress, but this and other important legal concerns fuel discussion at Nov. 8 event; free for USF students.

 Associated Press Photos                                                                                                                                                                          

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 5, 2013) – “Anyone with an interest in the current condition of Latino communities in the U. S. should consider attending our conference this Friday,” stated Associate Professor and Sociology Department Chair Elizabeth Aranda.

“Between the speakers, who are top researchers in their fields, and the topics we will cover, which touch on some of the most important issues facing Latinos today, we expect to come away better informed and more focused in our efforts to understand what needs to be addressed going forward.”

The conference title, “Latino Communities in Old and New Destinations: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Assessing the Impact of Legal Reforms,” encompasses a broad range of topics including, legal status as it affects Latina/o youth, inequalities in the criminal justice system, the well-being of vulnerable populations as well as intra-ethnic relations and social integration.

“And we’ll highlight the importance of these issues for the Latino communities in the mid-Atlantic, the South, the Midwest and the Southwest as well as those of Central Florida, and Tampa and St. Pete in particular, as these issues are also playing out in our own backyard,” Aranda, the conference organizer, said.

The one-day conference takes place Nov. 8, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg. The registration fee of $50 includes lunch, snacks and refreshments during the day, but is waived for USF students who can attend for free by registering online, click here. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis until the limited seating capacity is filled.

Good timing

“The conference is timely given that the current state of immigration reform legislation is stalled. The conference highlights the important need of immigration reform before the end of the year and draws attention to the state of limbo and hardship that many immigrant families face due to the House’s inaction on moving forward on broad legislative reforms,” Aranda said.

“Our panelists, who come from a variety of disciplines and methodological approaches, will look at social policies at the federal, state and local levels and how they affect what has become a truly diverse Latino community – one made up of many types of communities,” said Aranda. “We’re talking about people from many different countries, people whose status ranges from long-time citizens of multiple generations to the newly-arrived, people with many different economic backgrounds and with varied experiences of race.

“Traditional gateway cities are seeing changes and new destinations are turning into thriving communities. What they have in common are certain struggles that cross all lines and that’s what we’ll be talking about. Our emphasis will be on legislation, court decisions and local ordinances,” Aranda said.

Distinguished participation

Cecilia MenjÍvar, Cowden Distinguished Professor, T. Denny School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University and Law Professor Ediberto Román from Florida International University College of Law are the featured guest speakers. MenjÍvar is the vice president elect of the American Sociological Association and Román is among the founding faculty of FIU’s School of Law.

Among USF researchers who will be presenting are sociologist Aranda along with fellow sociologist Elizabeth Vaquera along with Heide Castaneda and Angela Stuesse from the Department of Anthropology.

“Students from my undergraduate research class, in which we are conducting research on undocumented immigrant youth, will be volunteering at the conference and will get to meet some of the authors whose work they have been studying,” Aranda said.

“We will be looking at how Latino/a lives are hurt in some cases and helped in other cases, depending on the legislation we examine and whether it is at the federal, state or local level. This can show up as the denial of drivers’ licenses or racial and immigrant profiling practices, the under-representation of Latinos on juries and a lot of other areas we will delve into.”

Sponsors include USF Research and Innovation, USF College of Arts & Sciences, USF Department of Sociology, USF Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (ISLAC), The Citizenship Initiative, USF Research One, the Suncoast Credit Union, USF World and Unidos Now.

For questions and assistance, contact Aranda at

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563