President Loh, others share struggles and successes in final “Year of Immigration” discussion

Anwar Sadat professor for Peace and Development Shibley Telhami gives his opening remarks. Telhami was responsible for presenting new data from a UMD poll regarding immigration (Photo by Casey Gannon).

By Casey Gannon

The Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Office of International Affairs and Carnegie Corporation of New York sponsored another event April 11 in the Cole Student Activities Building  to recognize UMD’s “Year of Immigration.”

The panel included four guest speakers: Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland; Nina Khrushcheva, professor at The New School in New York; Maria Otero, former Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights; and Abderrahim Foukara, the U.S. bureau chief for Al Jazeera. It was moderated by Shibley Telhami, an Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland.

Telhami began by asking Khrushcheva, who moved to the United States two weeks before the fall of the Soviet Union, about her immigrant story.

“Being a Russian in this country is never easy,” Khrushcheva said.

She added that she has felt discriminated against even for something as simple as her name.

“Nobody really cared that my name was Nina Khrushcheva in 1995,” Khrushcheva said. “Well, that’s not the case today.”

Loh shared he was born in Shanghai, China, but his family soon moved to Lima, Peru, to seek political asylum.

With $300 to his name, Loh moved to the United States on his own after seeking help from the U.S. embassy and applying to Grinnell College, a small college in Iowa.

“I can tell you from experience, that the people in Iowa were some of the kindest people I have ever met,” he said.

Loh went on to pursue a law degree and a doctorate in psychology, but not without his own struggles along the way.

“It’s one thing to read about segregation,” Loh said. “It’s another thing to experience it personally.”

Otero was born in Bolivia. At 12 years old, she immigrated to the United States with her family. She didn’t know any English.

“Learning the language is one of the most difficult struggles that you have to undertake,”said Otero, who ended up graduating from the University of Maryland.

In Otero’s eyes, trying to assimilate to American culture is one of the most difficult things you can do though she eventually learned that her way of trying to assimilate was not only unattainable, but unnecessary.

“At the time, I just wanted blonde hair and blue eyes. Everything my family did was wrong,” Otero said.

Foukara was the last to share his immigrant story. He explained the struggles immigrants often have to go through to feel accepted in American society.

“There’s no recognition of success that succeeds the American recognition of success,” Foukara said.

Freshman government and politics and history double major Taylorann Vibert has attended Year of Immigration events throughout the academic year.

“This was being advertised as sort of the creme de la creme like the end all of them so I wanted to wrap up the year nicely with [this program],” Vibert said.

While Vibert was interested in the discussion as a whole, she said she had a few main takeaways from the event.

“One thing that interested me the most was the new perspective on Russia that was being pushed through this event, and to frame Russia in a different context outside of its currently hostility that it is having with the U.S.,” Vibert said.

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