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Published: March 1, 2018 Author: Neeley Allen

The subject of illegal immigration is now commonplace in society and often “immigrants” or “refugees” are belittled as human beings. These terms typically suggest that the people classified under these terms are adversaries in some way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, this ideology is a centuries-old issue dating back to the founding of our country.

To gain a better understanding of these terms, Dr. John O’Keefe, assistant professor of history at Ohio University Chillicothe, helps to dissect the history and background of how we got to this point in terms of immigration. Prof. O’Keefe has recently been quoted in City of Immigrants, which was the February cover story in Baltimore magazine. He is also in the process of writing a book about American immigration.

O’Keefe earned his Ph.D. in history in 2012 from George Washington University. While he has written many articles on a plethora of topics, his work focuses on the role of migrants in the U.S. and shaping of the rights of citizenship, and their interactions with racial and national identity.

In City of Immigrants, O’Keefe talked about the stereotypes and generalizations that crop up during conversations about the impact of immigrants on American Society. The article focuses on a largely immigrant region of Baltimore and the impact “immigration” policies have had on neighboring families.

While the issues of immigration and refugee resettlement will no doubt be contentious subjects in both national politics and in smaller sectors of government around the country, it’s important to have a better understanding of its origins to effect positive change.

There will not be one simple, easy answer to dramatically changing the lives of potentially hundreds of thousands of people or more with sweeping legislation. We can instead continue to study the multiple factors that cause the rise in illegal immigration, the need for people to flee their countries or seek out a better life in the land of the free. Understanding terminology surrounding the issue and what it means to be “American” will serve everyone more in the long run. 

For questions related to immigration or the like, please feel free to contact O’Keefe at okeefe@ohio.edu or 740.774.7269.


O’Keefe’s recognition in “Baltimore” has awarded him as one of OHIO’s weekly “Faculty High Fives.” “Faculty High Fives” is a weekly social media series highlighting OHIO experts featured in the news as they raise Ohio University’s profile and shape national dialogue and perception on a variety of important issues.