August 22, 2018

Panel Experts Will Discuss Immigration, Provide Information on Multiple Issues

“YOU ARE WELCOME HERE”: Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) board members gather at their new headquarters on South Clinton Street in Trenton. Executive Director Adriana Abizadeh (in red dress at center) will be a panelist at a discussion of “Immigration Today, A Latino Reality” at the old Princeton Borough Hall on Monument Drive on Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. (Photo Courtesy of LALDEF)

By Donald Gilpin

“Immigration Today, A Latino Reality,” a discussion of local and national immigration issues, led by a panel of experts, will take place at the old Borough Hall on Monument Drive on Thursday, August 23 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Asylum and refugees, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), separation of families, amnesty, temporary protected status, the Muslim ban, the role of faith-based communities, and sanctuaries will be among the topics explored at the event sponsored by Princeton Community Television and the TV show Perdidos en America.

Panelists will include Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) Executive Director Adriana Abizadeh, Brother Christopher McNabb from Trinity Church, Princeton University Sociology Professor and Director of the University’s Center for Migration and Development Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, and Rocio Suayfeta Saez, a member of the board of the Bucks County Chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA, Diversity and Inclusion Council.

“We will discuss practical implications of immigration policies, practices, and laws, providing up-to-date information for residents to protect themselves and advocate for themselves,” said Adam Bierman, who will be moderating the discussion. “We want to be nonpartisan. We want to hear pros and cons.”

Emphasizing the importance of ongoing communication in the community, Abizadeh stated, “All of the immigration policy changes we have seen over the last 20 months have been xenophobic, and some arguably have violated international human rights. With all of the political polarity it is important to remember that policy changes not only affect our broader society, but single individuals. Isolating ourselves and excluding others will have effects not only on population size, but also on our larger context economy, health care, and education.”

McNabb, speaking as a representative of the faith community, discussed his role on the panel. He mentioned that the scripture constantly tells of people on the move, and the voice of God in scripture consistently calls on his people to welcome the stranger. “It says that if you welcome the stranger, you welcome Jesus himself.”

McNabb continued, “Immigrants are not a problem to be solved, but a people to be celebrated. We must create a more humane policy. This event is happening because so many community partners within the faith community, local nonprofits, and community leaders have said this is important. We’re hoping to educate the community at large about what is happening and what we can do as citizens to impact change.”

McNabb, who was hired at Trinity Church a year ago “to deepen our commitment to those who experience mass incarceration and those who experience the immigration system,” pointed out the challenges for immigrants in the current political climate. “There’s an effort to divide us,” he said. “We can rise up against that. We believe in a deeper truth, and we refuse to believe that despair is the answer.”

He urged the two sides in the immigration debate to reconcile their differences, “I ask people who agree with current immigration policy to tune in and listen with open hearts. If we can just find common ground, we can find a way forward that is best for our country, a way that welcomes immigrants and has a legal system in place that keeps communities safe.”

He added, “I believe in the goodness of immigrants to improve our nation, and I believe that we’re stronger together.”

Thursday’s panel discussion will be in English, with time for a discussion following commentary from the panelists. Spanish interpreters will be available if needed.