Loyola professor to lecture at GVSU on immigration, undocumented individuals

Ita Tsai

Professor Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz from Loyola University Chicago will be leading a lecture titled “Why Didn’t They Get Legal?” on immigration law and mixed-status families. The public lecture will take place Thursday, Jan. 25, from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Room 2263.

Gomberg-Muñoz is an associate professor of anthropology. Her work is centered on political economy, migration, urban ethnography and the Latino community in the U.S. 

She has published two books on immigration law, “Becoming Legal: Immigration Law and Mixed-Status Families” (2016) and “Labor and Legality: An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network” (2011). 

“The talk that I’m going to be giving is an attempt to address a lot of the popular misconceptions that there are about immigration, which is one of the most urgent and controversial issues in the U.S. at this political moment,” Gomberg-Muñoz said. “There are about 11 million people who live here without papers, and our lives are all intertwined in really important ways.”

Gomberg-Muñoz has done research projects on the experiences of undocumented workers and families in Chicago who are going through the process of gaining legal permanent residency. 

“My work mostly focuses on understanding the lives of undocumented people and their families in the U.S.,” she said. “I’ve been doing that for over 10 years now.”

The project she is going to be talking about builds off her dissertation research.

“Undocumented people expressed a lot of optimism about how their lives would change for the better once they acquired papers, but I soon realized that almost nobody I reached out to had acquired a legal status,” she said. “Why is it that such few undocumented people get to change their status? What are the criteria to become legal and barriers that they face? I decided to follow the process of these families as they move through the U.S. immigration system on the path to gain legal status.”

Michael Wroblewski, assistant professor of anthropology at GVSU, expressed his interest in Gomberg-Muñoz’s investigation and decided to assign some of her work to his classes. 

“She’s going to be meeting with my ethnographic methods class and give a talk, so her work has been very helpful to me teaching as well,” he said. “She has a very unique insight to the entire process of becoming legal and has spent many years studying it, so she’s very well-integrated to the communities of undocumented workers.” 

Wroblewski is also one of the organizers of the event. 

“They’re things you don’t always hear on the news, even though there’s so much debate on it,” he said. “It’s a very important and timely issue that she has a lot to say on.”

This lecture will provide students with a glimpse into what it’s like to be an undocumented person in the U.S.

Gomberg-Muñoz’s primary goal in doing the lecture is “for students to better understand the difficulties of U.S. immigration policies and have a deeper appreciation about their complexity,” as well as for students to “develop a better appreciation of the struggles that immigrants have in the U.S.”

The lecture is LIB 100- and 201-approved and open for all GVSU students, staff and faculty.