“Who is an American?”: An overview of the “It’s Complicated” series’ latest discussion

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosted a panel discussion on Wednesday, March 23, titled the “It’s Complicated Series: Panel Discussion—‘Who is an American?’” 

The panel included speakers who have experience in the topics of either immigration or communications. The topics discussed included the difficulties of receiving and changing immigration statuses, the criminalization of immigrating in the media and the racial overtones used in previous United States citizenship standards. 

The panel also discussed the history of the citizenship standards in the United States where, at first, only “free white people” were granted citizenship and the government slowly increased the number of people who could apply for citizenship over a century.

However, the main topic covered was how the term “American” has become an exclusionary term. 

According to Merriam-Webster, the term is defined as anyone who is a native or inhabitant of North America or South America but the term’s more commonly accepted definition is to define those strictly living in the United States who are legal citizens. The panel’s focus was on how, similar to the term, immigration to the United States has also become highly exclusionary. 

Fabian Jacobo was one of the speakers and is currently a drafter for Sunrise Engineering, Inc. Jacobo spoke on the panel from the perspective of someone who illegally immigrated to the United States at a very young age. While he can remember almost nothing from his time outside of the United States, Jacobo felt as if he had been judged by a single act he had no control over. 

Jacobo believed that many media outlets have created a commonly accepted image of immigration that does not see the entire side of the story. 

“I feel like a lot of the time for something to make the news, it has to be something that is outstanding in some sort of way,” Jacobo said. “So, a lot of the time, that highlights specific events or issues going on but it doesn’t give a wider image of everything going on around the country in regards to immigration. In a way, that sort of skews perception towards the narrative that’s being provided.”

Jacobo also advised those in a similar situation to his own to seek help from those they trust. 

“I would say to reach out to other people you feel comfortable with, maybe those who are in a similar situation or who know about you,” Jacobo said. “Find yourself a support group because it’s a lot easier to deal with all the problems and situations you go through when you have support from other people.”

While another similar panel is not currently scheduled, Southern Utah University’s CDI encourages those to do further research on ‌immigration laws and history to better understand the difficulties surrounding immigrating and maintaining immigration statuses in the United States. 

Article and Photo by: Luke McKenzie