The Center for Community Research and Engagement (CCRE) held a panel discussion on immigration and refugee issues on October 30 at Seton Hall University.
The panel consisted of several experts on the topic who gave insight on the struggles that immigrants and refugees face and answered questions from the audience.
The panel members included Father Timothy Graff, director of social justice office, Zaida C. Rivera, practitioner in residence for the immigrants’ rights, Rosa Santana, program director of first friends of New Jersey and New York, and Susannah Volpe, visiting assistant clinical professor in the immigrants’ rights.
Timothy Hoffman, the director of CCRE and moderator of the panel discussion, hoped that this event would spark activism and understanding in Seton Hall’s students and faculty.
Hoffman said they felt this was an important event to hold because immigration is one of the “defining issues of our times.”
He went on to say that the CCRE, along with the College of Arts and Sciences dean’s task force on immigration have been “seeking to learn more about the issues impacting immigrants and refugees in our local communities and how we can work with local organizations to make a positive impact,” Hoffman said.
“We felt it was important to host this event to bring awareness to this issue and to highlight ways that students and faculty can mobilize to make an impact in their local communities,” Hoffman said.
Seton Hall students have also shown interest in learning more about immigration issues as they affect the community.
Alicia Sardar, a freshman marketing major, said that “the topic was interesting and something that needs to be talked about with so many laws changing in terms of immigration in our society.”
Sardar continued to say that the discussion was informative and she felt like “it’s important to have dialogue surrounding this topic.”
Panel speaker Rosa Santana was able to offer students an important perspective from her role in working with First Friends, a non-profit organization that provides assistance and advocacy to immigrants seeking help.
“The Center For Community Research and Engagement started working with First Friends about a year ago and we send students to the Elizabeth Detention Center to visit with detainees and asylees and Rosa has coordinated this program for years,” Hoffman said.
Santana spoke on the idea that “an important element in this conversation is the fear that immigrants and refugees experience. They’re afraid that any contact with law enforcement would be contact with immigration.”
Another panel speaker, Susannah Volpe, identified one of the main problems as the way that immigration is criminalized.
In order to have a productive and progressive conversation about this topic, participants have to change the way they think about the issue and broaden their perspective to include the hardships that immigrants face individually on a daily basis,” Volpe said.
Hoffman feels that this was an opportunity for students to learn more about the realities that immigrants face in “our own local communities.”
He went on to say that the speakers offered tremendous insight into understanding issues and considering the humanity of people who are impacted by U.S. policies.
Hoffman said he felt that the event was a great success and wanted to thank all students and faculty members who came out and participated in the event.
Hoffman concluded,“We had a dynamic Q&A session with the panelists and audience members that really showcased the many different ways people can get involved in helping immigrants and refugees in their own communities.”
Meagan Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org