UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – “How did we get here?”
That was the opening question posed by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar & clinical professor of law, at Penn State Law’s Teach-In on Immigrants’ Rights, held Jan. 12 in the Lewis Katz Building.
The recent presidential campaign and post-election rhetoric put a spotlight on immigrants and their rights in the United States. The Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic has been working hard to offer the immigrant community and those wanting to support them resources and guidance in the recent weeks, and those efforts culminated in a Statewide Teach-In on Immigrants’ Rights, a collaboration of scholars and community officials.
Beginning at 4:30 p.m., the event, coordinated by Wadhia, director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, was broken down into four sections, kicking off with Immigration 101. Other topics covered ranged from immigrants’ constitutional rights to immigration enforcement, to the concept of a “Muslim Registry.”
Speakers included legal professors from Penn State Law, Drexel University, Temple University, Villanova University, and the University of Pennsylvania, where the teach-in was live-streamed to a room on the Penn campus. The mayor of State College Borough, Elizabeth Goreham, and two Borough Council members were also in attendance to discuss the borough’s recent passing of a resolution that states that the borough will not voluntarily assist in immigration enforcement efforts by the federal government.
“This is a time of chaos,” said Goreham. “Without comprehensive immigration reform, local municipalities must focus on protecting all of our community members. We are where democracy begins.”
Other speakers included Linda Rabben, associate research professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland. She helped to clarify the difference between the terms “sanctuary,” a largely faith-based protection outside of the legal structure, and “asylum,” a legal remedy available to some immigrants.
“We must think of this as a moral issue rather than just a legal issue,” Rabben said.
The event concluded with a deluge of resources available to the community and Pennsylvania in general, presented by Judy Kim, coordinator at the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC). She also offered several tips for immigrants to “know their rights,” including obtaining a reputable immigration lawyer before you need one and having a safety plan in place with your family.
“What a load of information, ideas, and resources,” Wadhia said at the end of the evening. “Thank you all for your incredible efforts.”
The Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law engages in community outreach and education on immigration topics such as immigration remedies for victims of crimes and President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The clinic also provides legal support in individual cases of immigrants challenging deportation (removal) or seeking protection by the Department of Homeland Security and in the courts. The clinic has developed a resource page on their website covering immigration law post-election for members of the immigrant community and local community members alike.