Sonia Sotomayor Shifts The Debate On Undocumented Immigrants

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor weighed in on everything from civic engagement to personal growth during a recent discussion with the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program.

True to form, the Bronx native was candid on issues that speak directly to her community. She addressed the flawed idea that everyone can pull themselves “up by the bootstraps” during an event highlight. “For those of us who understand that sometimes no matter how tall the heel on your boot is, the barrier is so high that you need a small lift to help you get over it – they will understand that the inequalities in society build that barrier so high. Unless you do something to knock it down or help that person up, they will never have a chance,” she said.

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Before the end of the conversation, she also took a closer look at undocumented immigrants when discussing how to stand in solidarity with the marginalized group. “There is no magic bullet solution. This a problem that has to be addressed on so many levels. We need more lawyers at the borders. We need more lawyers helping immigrants who are coming here and are here to help regularize their status and to try to give them advice about what their alternatives are in terms of coming into the country,” she explained. “There are all sorts of different reasons for why people can stay here, and you have to learn about what those reasons are. But we need more people involved in ensuring that entering immigrants are given proper legal advice but are also given proper aid and helping them figure out how to regularize their status here.”

The Princeton alumna later addressed one-sided, and often xenophobic, rhetoric towards the community. “[We] have to have people really talking about the value of immigrants to our society,” she continued. “There’s a lot of talk about how immigrants hurt our society, but how much are you hearing on the other side of that debate? Much less. The debate has to be equalized in some meaningful way.”

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