Advocacy & Activism, Discrimination, Education, Immigration, Law Enforcement, Legislation, Litigation

Immigration Expert Fed Up with Arizona, Comes to UC Davis

From, The Sacramento Bee, Stephen Magagnini,, 14 Aug 2011.

New UC Davis professor Jack Chin, an immigration law expert, said he didn't want to raise his daughters in Arizona's political climate. "We are a United Nations," he said. "My kids are Jewish and Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Jordanian, Chinese, Scotch, Irish and Scandinavian."

New UC Davis professor Jack Chin, an immigration law expert, said he didn't want to raise his daughters in Arizona's political climate. "We are a United Nations," he said. "My kids are Jewish and Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Jordanian, Chinese, Scotch, Irish and Scandinavian."

Gabriel “Jack” Chin – a national voice in the debate over undocumented immigrants – has been hired to teach criminal law, criminal procedure and immigration law at UC Davis School of Law.

Chin left the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, where he vigorously challenged Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, considered the toughest immigration law in the country.

SB 1070 would make it illegal to be undocumented in Arizona and would require law enforcement to check the status of anyone suspected of being undocumented.

During his eight years in Arizona, “it seems there’s been a steady flow of anti- immigrant sentiment that’s inextricably tied to their race,” said Chin, who said he has debated or discussed SB 1070 in public forums 70 times.

“The Arizona Legislature’s passed laws that I see as harsh, cruel and inhumane, and it seems unlikely it’s going to stop in the next decade,” said Chin, adding that he and his wife didn’t want to raise their two daughters – Becca, 10 and Sarah, 13 – in Arizona’s current political climate.

“We are a United Nations – my kids are Jewish and Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Jordanian, Chinese, Scotch, Irish and Scandinavian.”

SB 1070 has been blocked by the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on grounds that the federal government – not the states – is charged with enforcing immigration laws. Arizona has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Discrimination against immigrants of color is something Chin, 47, takes personally. He traces his roots back to Chinese immigrants who came to California during the Gold Rush and helped build the transcontinental railroad.

His father, Frank Chin, is a pioneering Asian American playwright and activist in Los Angeles, who grew up in Placerville and Oakland.

Chin said he chose UC Davis because of its reputation for social justice and high number of Asian Americans.

“We have more Asian American professors than any law school in the country, including Harvard,” said Associate Dean Vikram David Amar.

Over the years, Chin helped his students get Ohio to finally re-ratify the 14th Amendment after 2001 race riots. Ohio had rescinded its original ratification of the 1868 amendment, which addresses due process, citizenship and equal protection.

Chin and his students also worked to get Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming to repeal anti-Asian land laws.

Amar said Chin “likes to not just be right about ideas – he likes to engage policymakers to figure out actual, practical solutions.”

“He’s certainly in the first rank of immigration thinkers, and has written a lot about the intersection between criminal law and immigration,” Amar said.

Chin arrives at UC Davis at a critical time in U.S. history, as Arizona has “ignited a national conversation on attitudes toward illegal immigration,” Amar said. Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah have all passed bills inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070, and a California version – Assembly Bill 26 by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican whose district covers parts of San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties – was defeated in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Chin, a lanky 6-footer who sometimes wears a New York Yankees bandana, will go without shaving for several days, dress like a hobo and invite his students to a parking lot, where he’s secretly arranged for local police to interrogate him.

“I want to show the students what really goes on when the police encounter a suspect in the field, what it’s like to be stopped, what it’s like to be frisked and what’s at stake on both sides,” Chin said. “I cuss out the police and try to provoke them.”

He and his wife Sue Emam, a teacher and social worker, have moved to the Wild Horse subdivision in Davis. The family is still shellshocked by the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others outside a Tucson supermarket not far from the Chins’ home. Six people died in the January shooting, including a federal judge. The suspect has not given police a motive.

Many Arizonans staunchly defend the immigration policies that Chin wants to leave behind.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne – who drafted a law banning ethnic studies classes he feels are divisive – bristled at Chin’s suggestion that SB 1070 is racially motivated.

“That’s the McCarthyism of the left raising its ugly head,” said Horne, who joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 civil rights march on Washington.

“The people of Arizona are revolting against a government that’s not enforcing its laws,” Horne said. “The last poll showed 90 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents and 50 percent of Democrats supported (SB) 1070.”

Horne said that more than 400,000 people crossed the border illegally last year in the Tucson area alone. And, he said, an increasing number of them had criminal records.

“I’d advise students not to take his courses,” Horne said of Chin. “California’s loss is Arizona’s gain.”

Chin acknowledges the mounting frustration in Arizona and the nation as people lose jobs and schools lose funding. “But not spending the rest of our lives in a state where the No. 1 policy is culture war makes sense for us,” he said.

Source:, The Sacramento Bee, “Immigration Expert Fed Up with Arizona, Comes to UC Davis” by Stephen Magagnini,, 14 Aug 2011.


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