Students Raise Immigration Awareness

Courtney Garloff, Print Editor

Many students take having a social security number, driver’s license or health insurance for granted, but for non-U.S. citizens, these are things they might never have.

An immigration reform/open town hall meeting was held Oct. 21 to raise awareness for immigration reform.

“The town hall was really an effort for students to have a conversation about immigration reform,” said history professor Dr. Allan Austin.

Austin talked about immigration from a historical point of view, and he explained the past and current immigration policy.

The event provided students with an exploration of the immigration issue from multiple viewpoints.

Students also heard from Sister Barbara Craig who spoke about the Sisters of Mercy’s views on immigration reform.

“Immigration reform is a big issue for some Catholics,” said campus organizer for immigration reform, Lacey McCourt.

McCourt organized the town hall meeting with the help of Campus Ministry and Faith and Public Life, an organization that tackles social issues each year.

“This year Faith and Public Life is currently taking on trying to spread awareness on immigration reform, especially in Catholic schools,” McCourt said.

Faith and Public Life asks college campuses to plan events of their choosing to help spread awareness of immigration reform issues.

This led representatives from Faith and Public Life to contact Campus Ministry who led them to McCourt. The group then helped her plan events.

The meeting also included “Elizabeth” and “Luis” who are documented in the U.S. but not yet citizens.

“When they told their stories it was definitely the highlight of the town hall,” said McCourt.

Luis is an immigrant from Honduras who was recently granted asylum in America while Elizabeth was brought to the country when she was only seven months old.

A few people in the crowd started to cry as they told the often harrowing stories of their lives and struggles.

“It really hit home when they told their stories, and we realize that they live in our community,” said McCourt.

Immigrants like Elizabeth are known as dreamers – undocumented youth who were brought into the country when they were young and unaware of what was happening.

“It’s not their decision to be here, but they are here anyway outside the law,” said Austin.

Faith and Public Life helped to bring Elizabeth to the town hall while Luis had previously spoken at the university and agreed to return at the request of Campus Ministry.

Many people commonly believe there are laws that prevent dreamers from attending college in the U.S., but each university has different policies about undocumented students – depending on state regulations.

Twelve states that offer in-state tuition for dreamers include Maryland, Texas and California. Pennsylvania does not.

Federal lawmakers were scheduled to vote on immigration reform before the govern- ment shutdown. The bill has been delayed and Congress may vote on reform before the end of the year.

McCourt encourages students to write letters to congressmen and representatives asking them to vote for immigration reform.

“Students need to be educated on immigration reform and know what it is so we can tell (Republican Congressman) Lou Barletta to change how he feels about immigration reform,” said McCourt.

Dallas is a part of District 11 represented by Barletta who does not support immigration reform.

Both Austin and McCourt believe events like the town hall are important for college students to experience during their time at that school.

“A college education is more than just sitting in class and doing homework,” said Austin.

“Events outside of the classroom helps to bring education alive,” said Austin.

McCourt is planning to have more events to raise awareness about immigration reform.

She previously organized more than 150 students to send postcards to Barletta, saying that they support immigration reform and he should reconsider his lack of support for the issue.

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