UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In celebration of Welcoming America’s Welcoming Week, which runs Sept. 16-25, Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic held an event for the community entitled “Asylum 101” in the Apfelbaum Courtroom of the Lewis Katz Building on Sept. 22.
The evening opened with second-year clinic students Carlos Camandang and Bethany Parry giving an overview of immigration law and the legal aspects of asylum in the United States, including giving definitions of “refugee” and “asylum,” as well as further explanation of Withholding of Removal and the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT). They also offered resources for those seeking asylum, and emphasized the importance of meeting with a U.S.- licensed attorney for legal counsel.
In the spirit of Welcoming Week, which seeks to celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity, a video was shown highlighting the DNA journey of individuals from countries around the world as they discover that they have ancestors from outside of their native country. The message, you have more in common with the world than you think, echoed the overarching theme of the evening.
To offer her first-hand experience, Penn State Law LL.M. student Martha Isabel Ferrera, a public defense lawyer in her home country of Honduras, addressed the group on why refugees come to America. Ferrera painted a terrifying picture of Honduras—a country in Central America’s Northern Triangle, the most violent region in the world—as a country torn apart by drugs, poverty, and corruption, where at least three lawyers are killed every day. Citizens there are seeking basic human rights, water, food, education, and a decent life, which is not possible in their native country.
“When you think of immigration, you have to think beyond the borders. You have to think of humans,” Ferrera said. “I encourage all of you to think about what you can do. No one alone can change the world, but you can make it better. At the end, we all have rights. We are all humans.”
The formal event ended with a presentation from Sharon Shen, executive director of Global Connections, a community-based, non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen the cultural fabric of the diverse State College community through partnerships, service, education, and advocacy. Shen described several aspects of assistance offered to internationals, including programs and events that enable intercultural learning and sharing for both internationals and local residents. She emphasized that everyone can make a difference in the community, just by getting involved.
As the Obama Administration recently announced, the United States will accept 110,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017. Events like this one help to encourage the integration of these refugees into our communities.
Welcoming America helps communities across the country reach their full economic and social potential by becoming more welcoming toward immigrants. Welcoming America brings together a broad network of nonprofits and local governments from across the U.S. and strengthens their work with the know-how, tools, and incentives they need to transform their communities into vibrant, prosperous places where all residents can contribute. Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, led by Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, recently joined Welcoming America as the organization’s first collegiate member.