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ASU professor examines legal structures shaping Latino experiences

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Thursday, October 19, 2023   

David Lopez, distinguished visiting professor of law at Arizona State University and co-dean emeritus at Rutgers University, said Arizona State has evolved since he was an undergraduate student there back in the 1980s.

Today, Lopez said he is proud to see the university be a Hispanic Serving Institution as more than 25% of the student body is Hispanic.

Lopez is back temporarily in his home state of Arizona and alma mater as a distinguished visiting professor to teach about legal structures and cases through the lens of the Latino community, by using a music and humanities approach to what he calls "fact-checking the law."

Lopez emphasized he wants to foster allyship and empathy among students of all backgrounds. Of the nearly 300 law students enrolled in 2022, 35% were students of color.

"Coming from Arizona, you understand the history and the reality of a racialized border and how that sort of bleeds out into communities regardless of immigration status," Lopez pointed out. "All you have to do is look at the really sweeping findings of racial profiling."

Lopez noted controversial legislation such as Senate Bill 1070, which required law enforcement officers to inquire about a suspect's status if they had reason to believe the individual was in the U.S. illegally, incited fear across Arizona.

While the effects are still felt today, he has found it has given rise to activism, which over the years has cultivated a stronger sense of belonging for the Latino community.

A recent survey commissioned by the Immigration Hub found a majority of Latino voters in key 2024 states such as Arizona want President Joe Biden to provide more relief to migrants in the U.S. without legal status while also securing the southern border.

Lopez argued the legal system is structured to leave the multifaceted Latino community in what he called a "state of displacement and limbo."

"Maricopa County has been ground zero of so much in terms of national division over immigration and ASU is sitting right in the middle of ground zero," Lopez stressed. "I think there was sort of this sense that it was important to engage and tell the history of these communities. "

Lopez added in the past, substantial research has come out of his course, which he noted focuses on issues often forgotten about in law schools.

Disclosure: ASU Media Relations and Strategic Communications contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Native American Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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