Historians Approve Anti-ICE Resolution

AHA2020 Carousel Slide test

At its annual meeting in New York City, the American Historical Association approved the following resolution:

RESOLUTION CONDEMNING AFFILIATIONS BETWEEN ICE AND HIGHER EDUCATION

In light of the serious and systematic violation of human rights committed by both the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Border Patrol (USBP) in recent years—and considering their presence on US university campuses for recruitment and research purposes—we resolve the following:

WHEREAS, several US universities have contracts with and host recruitment for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the US Border Patrol (USBP); 

WHEREAS, ICE and USBP have been cited for numerous human rights abuses at the border and in detention facilities; 

WHEREAS university contracts with ICE and USBP legitimate both agencies as a branch of government and potential employers; therefore, be it

Resolved, that the AHA urge university faculty, staff, and administrators to sever existing ties and forgo future contracts with ICE and USBP; and

Resolved,that the AHA support sanctuary movements on campuses that seek to protect immigrant students and workers.

I am not sure what this resolution has to do with the study of history.  If I was present I would have rejected it. The AHA is not a political organization.  In this sense, I am mostly in agreement with the former AHA president and Cornell University historian Mary Beth Norton.  Here is a taste of a recent piece at Inside Higher Education:

Members of the American Historical Association approved a resolution condemning college and university contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 70 to 60, at their annual meeting over the weekend. They approved an additional statement in support of professors teaching off the tenure track, but voted down two resolutions expressing concern about academic freedom in Israel.

The successful resolution on ICE now goes to the AHA’s governing council for further consideration. Per association policies and procedures, the council may accept it, refuse to concur or exercise a veto.

Alexander Avina, associate professor at Arizona State University, was the first to speak in favor of the resolution, saying that his own parents were undocumented migrants and that he now teaches such immigrants in the borderlands. He urged the AHA to take “a stand against ongoing state terrorism” and the idea that universities should make millions of dollars by working with agencies that perpetrate it.

Ashley Black, a visiting assistant professor of history at California State University at Stanislaus, said she teaches students who were part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and who now live in a “state of fear and insecurity.” She asked the AHA to endorse campuses as sanctuaries in the interest of student safety and learning.

ICE had no vocal fans in the room, but a number of historians spoke out against the resolution on the grounds that it strays from AHA’s mission and established rules and practices. Mary Beth Norton, former AHA president and Mary Donlon Alger Professor Emerita at Cornell University, said she might support a resolution that adhered to the AHA’s Guiding Principles on Taking a Public Stance, highlighting threats to historical sources, academic freedom and historians’ movement. Yet she did not support the resolution as written.

Norton said later that the document said “nothing about historical scholarship or historians. Accordingly, it is outside the purview if the AHA as an organization, even though expressing outrage about ICE is entirely appropriate for individual historians in their capacity as citizens.”  

Avina said that he and his colleagues behind the resolution hope that the council will “accept and publicly support” it.

Read the entire piece here.