“Whether by choice or force, we are all here as a result of coming from somewhere else. Though motivations were different, the results were the same to find a place in which to build a life with some opportunity. We are a nation of people who’ve come from somewhere else,” said Mary Finger, Seton Hill University’s president.
The SHU Division and Inclusion office, in partnership with the YWCA Westmoreland County, presented a panel discussion called “Immigration- It’s Not That Easy” Nov. 8 that was open to SHU and Greensburg community members. The event included a conversation with panelists, time to make recommendations on how to improve the immigration issue and a group discussion.
“Given that our success and strength as a nation would not be possible without the contributions of immigrants, and generations of immigrants, this is definitely a topic that we want to learn about and continue to stay informed,” said Kathy Raunikar, executive director of YWCA Westmoreland County.
Jen Jones, associate professor of communication at SHU, really enjoyed the event and said she is glad SHU hosts events like this.
Because of their relevance for a liberal arts university focused on Catholic social teaching, “hearing from professionals who work in the area of immigration and from people sharing their personal experiences helped me to learn about this salient topic and empathize with those affected by it,” Jones said.
With six panelists at the event, many in attendance were interested to hear what they had to offer. “Talking about this immigration process, you have to understand it’s a very long process, there are many people who’ve been waiting to come to this country for years. Until we can put ourselves into that train of thought, we’ll begin to understand why people can’t wait long to get here,” said panelist Monica Ruiz, a Casa San Jose civic engagement and community organizer, and advocate for the Latino community for over 15 years.
“Here in Pittsburgh there hasn’t been a big influx of immigrants that speak Spanish and so there are many systems and structures in place that don’t really help unless you speak English,” Ruiz said.
Attendee of the event, Alyese Bolton, a political science major, said she thought it was good way to talk about an important issue.
Carrie Ellis, a sophomore political science major, said, “reaching out to people and having that connection and level of understanding and communication about it,” and educating others around you, would allow you to be able to change misconceptions about the issue.
“All of us in this room here today are here as a result of immigration, unless of course you are of Native American heritage,” Finger said. “Families and individuals came to these shores for many reasons, some came out of choice, some were forced. Those who chose to come often came pleading religious or political persecution, the effects of war or economic systems that provided little opportunity.”
15-year-old panelist Laura Chavez, who came to Pittsburgh at the age of two with her mother and brother to meet her father who was already here, said, “We want to make advancements to this country,” and shared her story of wanting to work in the country, and how DACA is helping her family immensely.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protects immigrants from deportation and gives them a work permit for a time and is renewable every two years.
During a group discussion on steps that could be taken to help the immigration issue in the future, Bolton said, “I feel like our community should make an effort to hold classes and educate people about what certain visas grant people, what it’s like to go through the vetting system and how long it actually takes.”