HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The recent travel ban in the U.S. continues to grab headlines, but students and professors at Coastal Carolina University are using it as an opportunity to talk about the issues.
On Tuesday, a panel consisting of CCU professors, many who immigrated to the U.S. themselves, spoke about their area of expertise and how the American perception on immigration has changed over the years.
"The name immigrant is used as a slur, and that wasn't the case in 1997 when immigrant was just sort of a condition of being, but not really a bad word to be called," said English professor Tripthi Pillai.
The speakers touched on a wide variety of topics such as the process of immigration, becoming a legal citizen and securing a green card.
"A green card holder is an identification. I have mine right here. It's a normal regular card like a driver's license, but it's also proof that we are legal residents in the United States," said Barbara Gasquet. "We have to pay our taxes every year. We cannot vote, that's the main difference with being a citizen. We don't have a right to vote. But we are protected under all U.S. laws."
Jose-Luis Mireles, a legal citizen and senior instructor in CCU's department of languages and intercultural studies, remembered being brought across the border as an undocumented immigrant after his parents received a work visa.
"When I was 15, my parents decided we need to go into the U.S. At that age, it was very difficult," he said. "Imagine leaving everything behind. All I had was a small suitcase and whatever belongings I could pack in there."
The panel also talked about the difficulties for foreign students who come to America to get an education.
"These children, it's not their fault," Mireles said. "Not everyone is made to go to college, but there are some brilliant minds out there that could make a big difference if given the chance."
Some on the panel say America used to be a country that celebrated immigration, but that the landscape seems to be changing.
"Increasingly and systematically, they have kind of eroded so that the conversations are almost exclusively about people taking away jobs, poor people taking away jobs, or about security and such," said Pillai.
Organizers said the purpose of the meeting was not to make political statements, but to give a different perspective and to encourage a healthy discussion about the issues.