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Former UN official to speak at University of Rochester

University of Rochester

  Alex Aleinikoff, a former United Nations deputy high commissioner for refugees, is speaking next week at the University of Rochester as part of a lecture series called “Unbordering Migration: Causes, Experiences, Identities.”

The series includes workshops and lectures about immigration issues. 

Aleinikoff, 69, worked with the United Nations from 2010 to 2015. He is currently a professor at the New School for Social Research. He said conversations around immigration tend to be polarized.

“We’re simply locked into this sort of ‘Give me your tired, your poor’ on the one hand, and ‘We don’t want anybody' on the other hand,” said Aleinikoff.

While the focus often centers on asylum-seekers and migrants trying to enter the country from the Southern border, he said many times the matter reflects back to the U.S.

“Often we are responsible for the conditions that have caused people to flee,” he said.

Aleinikoff cited the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 that led to the rise of the Islamic State, as well as foreign intervention elsewhere in the world.

“We tend to think the United States sits as this great big magnet pulling people here who are deciding to leave their countries, but the United States has been deeply involved in Central America for decades,” he said.

Aleinikoff said he hopes to expand the conversation around immigration to include more nuance and a deeper understanding of the larger context around what has been a political sticking point for years. 

His talk at the University of Rochester’s Rush Rheese Library is on Nov. 4. Admission is free.

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.