SHU hosts discussion panel: “Immigration – It’s Not That Easy”

Panel members from left to right: Larry Leibowitz, Laura Chavez, Alejandra Castillo Smyntek, Abbie Rosario, Sandra Marsh-McClain and Monica Ruiz. Photo by C.Arida/Setonian.

The Seton Hill University diversity and inclusion office, in partnership with the Westmoreland County YWCA, presented the panel discussion “Immigration – It’s Not That Easy” on Nov. 8 in Cecilian Hall.

Panelists included Lawrence “Larry” Lebowitz, chair of the Immigration Group at Cohen & Gribsy law firm; Abbie Rosario, managing attorney at Rosario Law in Pittsburgh; Sandra Marsh-McClain, program manager of the RISE (Refugee and Immigration Services for Employment) program at Pennsylvania Women Work in Pittsburgh; Monica Ruiz, community organizer at Casa San Jose in Pittsburgh; Alejandra Castillo Smyntek, associate researcher at the Center of Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh; and moderator Joyce Clohessy, chair of the YWCA racial justice committee.

The panelists discussed the immigration process, types of visas, deportation and the effect all of this has on the Hispanic community in Western Pa.

“They [Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE] are terrorizing communities, dragging parents out in front of their children,” said Ruiz. “ Children and mothers are now alone because the fathers were on their way to work.” Ruiz explained that deportation tactics include the blocking of neighborhoods where they know undocumented immigrants live so that they can detain them on their way to work or school.

Laura Chavez, the youngest panel member at age 15, who came to America from Mexico with her undocumented parents at age two, discussed her experience as an undocumented immigrant as well as her experience as a Dreamer in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). She applied for DACA only days before the Trump administration made the announcement to put an end to new appilications in September.

“I don’t know anything about Mexico and I don’t want to; I want to work in America,” said Chavez. “DACA is not just a protection, it is a way for us to contribute to the country we want to live in.”

Following the panel discussion, the audience, which consisted of students, faculty and members of the Westmoreland community, formed discussion groups to make recommendations for improving the immigration system. One audience member raised the issue that the panel brought up more questions than it did answers. Many agreed that there needs to be more education surrounding immigration as well as more opportunities to discuss problems and solutions.

Students and faculty at the panel were also asked to discuss solutions that involve the SHU community, which would be taken back to the diversity and inclusion office to be considered for future community collaborations.

A follow-up article will be published with more information on immigration and the effects it has on the Westmoreland community.

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