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Immigrants’ Rights Clinic hosts local forum on immigration law

“Immigration Issues After U.S. v. Texas: A Community Dialogue” brought the State College and Penn State communities together for a panel discussion on immigration issues on August 31.
Panelists at "Immigration Issues After U.S. v. Texas: A Community Dialogue | Penn State Law

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – After the recent “non-decision” in the Supreme Court immigration law case of U.S. v. Texas, many questions remain as to what will happen to the millions of undocumented young people and parents affected by the ruling. To help answer these questions for the local State College community, Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic hosted a community forum on August 31 in the State College Municipal Building.

“Immigration Issues After U.S. v. Texas: A Community Dialogue” was co-sponsored by the Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, State College Borough, and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition.

Video of the event is available to be streamed online.

“If I were to describe immigration law in one word, I would use the word maze,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. “It has been compared as second in complication only to the United States tax code.”

To help alleviate the confusion in the community, the forum included panelists representing local government, the faith community, a community activist group, and law enforcement. In addition to Wadhia, speakers included Elizabeth Goreham, mayor of State College; Marv Friesen, pastor of the University Mennonite Church; Judy Kim, PA is READY! coordinator for the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition; and State College Police Chief Thomas King, whose last act as police chief was attending the panel. King retired on August 31 to become assistant borough manager for neighborhood and community services, effective September 1.

“We are growing faster in diversity than in actual population. We must reaffirm the principles of inclusivity in the community,” said Goreham, noting that the State College Borough was one of many municipalities nationwide to sign an amicus brief in the U.S. v. Texas Supreme Court Case.

In addition to the Texas case, several local initiatives were discussed, including one led by King. That initiative, Community and Campus in Unity, focuses on bringing together members of the State College and Penn State communities, regardless of race, ethnicity, or status.

King emphasized the mission of the State College Police Department, stating that regardless of the status of any of its citizens, the department will always provide high quality service that is accessible to everyone in the community, while treating everyone with respect and protecting the rights of all.

“We have more to do, we have more to give, but please help us spread the word about the inclusive philosophy of the State College Police Department,” he said.

The panel ended with a question and answer session with the audience, and a recommendation from each panelist on what individuals can do to help the local immigrant community. These included attending more events such as this discussion, getting involved in local groups, and encouraging policy leaders to make changes.

“This is about humanity, and coming together to demonstrate the wealth of cultures that our community has to offer,” said Friesen.

“Wherever you have interest, there is opportunity,” said Goreham.

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