Words Matter: the U.S. Debate over Immigration, the Media, and the 2016 Election

Friday May 06

  • By: American Bar Association Commission on Immigration, ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice
  • Time: 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM
  • Time Zone: Eastern Time (US & Canada)
  • Location:
    National Press Club
    529 14th St NW
    Floor 13
    Washington, DC

During this program, panelists will discuss the recent political debates around immigration, including responses to the influx in Central American immigration, the political response to the Syrian refugee crisis, President Obama’s executive orders on immigration reform, and questions about the legitimacy of birthright citizenship, among other issues. Panelists will explore the importance of maintaining an honest and civil discourse, despite widely divergent views, particularly in an election year, where the American public is keenly focused on the positions espoused by potential future leaders of the country. Political candidates and leaders have a responsibility to use caution in making sweeping claims about certain races, nationalities and religious groups. There are grave consequences when immigration fears are stoked by politicians as has been demonstrated throughout history. This troubling discourse has included vitriolic claims with few or no reliable facts to back them up. The United States was founded on principles of liberty and justice, providing a safe haven to those seeking religious and political freedom. We will discuss these important founding principles and how the negative rhetoric employed in today’s political debate threatens our country and our modern democracy.


  • Martin O’Malley, former Governor of Maryland
  • Emir Hadzic, U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant; Bosnian-Muslim refugee
  • Melinda Henneberger, Editor-in-Chief, Roll Call
  • Jayesh Rathod, Professor of Law and Director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic, American University - Washington College of Law
  • Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC); Chair of the ABA Commission on Immigration (moderator)

Registration is required. For in-person registration, click here. For live web stream, click here. (To access the link for the live web stream at the time of the event, visit americanbar.org/immigration).