Dr. Swain on Immigration Law

Lindsay Wasserman

On Thursday, April 6, Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University Carol Swain led a discussion titled “Reforming Immigration in a Divided Nation.” Dr. Swain is the author of six books, including “Black Faces,” which won the Woodrow Wilson Prize for the best book published in the United States on government, politics or international affairs. Frequently cited by influential figures and publications, Swain is accomplished in her field. The Center for Freedom and Western Civilization and the Program on Race and Public Policy sponsored the event.  

Swain’s research interests include immigration reform, religious liberty, campaigns and elections and racial politics. To begin the lecture, she presented a video describing her background and childhood. Dr. Swain explained that because of her upbringing and ethnicity, she believed that she had a lot to prove. This drive motivated her to attend community college, and later to transfer to Roanoke College. She continued her higher education and received M.A., Ph.D. and M.S.L. Law degrees. She asserted that her background significantly shaped her growth and ultimately, her career path.

Through personal anecdotes, Swain shared how members of her hometown community struggled to find employment because of the increased competition in the labor market caused by an influx of immigrants. She used these stories to highlight the effects that both legal and illegal immigration have on Americans citizens and the United States economy.

Swain explained how her exposure to Christianity later in life had an indelible impact on her views and career. Swain expressed that she considers herself a Christian first, Conservative second and Republican third.

Swain continued by outlining President Trump’s plans for immigration reform and included her own insight into the proposed changes. She explained that undocumented immigrants pose a threat to society because the government is unable to accurately keep track of how many individuals are situated in the United States.

Additionally, she put forth her own 14-point immigration reform plan in her book, “Be the People,” and she briefly discussed her central arguments with the audience. She believes that border security needs to be prioritized, that legislation needs to be passed immediately to require all immigrants to register with the government and that the government needs to prioritize admitting highly skilled immigrants into the country. Her last point drew on her upbringing, expressing how she believes that low skilled workers are at risk for losing their jobs to immigrants.

Swain’s discussion ignited multiple questions from the audience, and many of her comments sparked debate from both sides of the aisle.

Senior Kelsey Soderberg shared her opinion on the lecture. 

“Obviously Professor Swain is a very qualified and intelligent speaker, but I found her arguments to lack sound evidence and analysis,” Soderberg said. “She provided a number of points to improve immigration, with no explanation of how to achieve that change, and villainized all liberals in the process. Though it’s certainly important to hear a pro-Trump, conservative viewpoint in any political discussion, Swain’s opinions were predominantly based on her evangelical Christian beliefs and were incredibly divisive.”

Swain explained that she has decided to retire from teaching at the end of this academic year. She explained that this decision was fueled by the changing environments at colleges and universities across the nation.