Lehigh students visited the United Nation along with Lafayette and Moravian College students on Feb. 22, 2019. They had the opportunity to meet Diego Dewar, the Mexican diplomat for climate and sustainability, and Ola Sohlström, the Swedish diplomat and immigration specialist. (Courtesy of Jessica Hubsch)

Lehigh students learn about immigration and migration from Mexican, Swedish UN diplomats


A group of Lehigh students, accompanied by some Lafayette and Moravian college students, met with diplomats from the Mexican and Swedish missions at the U.N. headquarters on Feb. 22 in an effort to get a better understanding on how other countries deal with immigration and migration.

The trip was organized by Bill Hunter, the director of Fellowship Advising and U.N. Programs. Students first visited the Mexican mission to sit down with Diego Dewar, the Mexican diplomat for climate and sustainability. After about a one-hour session with Dewar, the group proceeded to meet with Ola Sohlström, the Swedish diplomat and immigration specialist.

Dewar touched upon Mexico’s proactive stance on the 2030 agenda on climate change and the country’s sustainable development goals. But he soon transitioned to the issues of migration that Mexico is dealing with, most prominently from Central American countries, and the student attendees had a chance to ask pressing questions.

“We are very committed to our neighbors,” Dewar said. “We are working with these countries to figure out what are their needs.”

Dewar highlighted the differences he perceives between Mexico’s approach to immigration and the United States’ approach.

Tal Derei, ’22, asked Dewar if Mexico would pay for a wall along the Mexican-American border in light of President Donald Trump’s recent state of emergency declaration.

Dewar said Mexico believes countries can’t be divided with walls, especially if they have a rich history with trading.

“I just wanted to be as direct as possible,” Derei said. “I knew he was going to say no. I just wanted to know why he thought no.”

Diana Rivas, ’19, said she wasn’t surprised by Dewar’s answer.

“Of course a country can’t force another country in diplomatic ways to pay an infrastructure project,” Rivas said. “That doesn’t make sense.” 

Continuing the discussion of immigration in the Swedish Mission, Sohlström discussed how Sweden is dealing with the mass amount of Syrian refugees that have migrated to the country in the recent years in response to the Syrian civil war. 

But Derei said at times, Sohlström seemed hesitant to analyze any potential negative consequences of Sweden’s migration policy.

“He talked about statistics, but he didn’t delve as much as I would’ve hoped,” Derei said. “He didn’t talk much about the economic or social implications.”

Sohlström mentioned his disapproval several times with the way that the U.S. deals with migration and other issues, such as education and healthcare. 

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