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Abel Rodríguez, JD ('01)

(On leave of absence through June 2023)

Director, Center on Immigration
Associate Professor of Religion, Law, and Social Justice

Abel Rodríguez (’01) is Director of the Center on Immigration and Associate Professor of Religion, Law, and Social Justice at Cabrini University. His scholarship, teaching, and advocacy focus on migrant justice. He is an expert and frequent speaker on immigration policy and the intersection of criminal and immigration law.       

Prior to Cabrini, Rodríguez held a split position as the immigration specialist at the Defender Association of Philadelphia and staff attorney at Nationalities Service Center, where he advised and represented noncitizen clients facing deportation. He also worked as the Langer, Grogan, and Diver Social Justice Fellow at Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, where he represented individuals with disabilities and older adults in their immigration matters. He has taught Crimmigration at Penn Law School, the immigration clinic at Temple Law School, political science at La Salle University, and Spanish language at the University of Pennsylvania.     

Rodríguez earned a Juris Doctor at the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Theological Studies at Harvard University, a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies at Stanford University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish at Cabrini College.

Areas of Expertise

Immigration law and policy; the intersection of criminal and immigration law; sanctuary and asylum; religion and law

Publications and Advocacy Films

Publications

  • The Road to Sanctuary: Insights from the City of Sisterly Affection and Brotherly Love, Fortress Press (co-editor with Amada Armenta and Caitlin Barry) (in progress)
  • Legislating Morality: Moral Theory and Turpitudinous Crimes in Immigration Jurisprudence, 53 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 39 (2019) (co-author with Jennifer Bulcock)
  • Crimes and Immigration: Civil Advocacy for Noncitizens at the Intersection of Criminal and Immigration Law, in Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees: Legal Issues, Clinical Skills, and Advocacy (Fernando Chang-Muy and Elaine P. Congress eds., 2d ed., Springer Publishing Company 2016).
  • Embracing Mother Cabrini’s Vision: Pursuing Immigrant Justice in the Classroom and Beyond, Cabrini Magazine, Fall 2016.

Advocacy Films

  • Boxed Out: Criminal Records and the Ban the Box Movement in Philadelphia (Penn Program on Documentaries and the Law 2011) (co-director and co-editor)
  • The Solutions: Buduburam Refugee Settlement and Ghana’s Forgotten Guests (Penn Law School 2011) (director and editor)

Presentations

  • Co-presenter, “Vile Exclusion: Abolishing the Codification of Morality in Immigration Law,” Law and Society Annual Meeting, Virtual Conference (May 28-31, 2020)
  • Presenter, “Decriminalizing Sanctuary: Free Exercise and the Convergence of Interests in the New Sanctuary Movement,” Annual Meeting of American Society of Criminology, San Francisco, CA (November 13-16, 2019)
  • Presenter, “Devising Depravity: Examining Categorical Imperatives and Approaches to Morality in Immigration Jurisprudence,” Migration Law and Policy Section, The Migration Conference, University of Bari, Italy (June 18-20, 2019)
  • Co-presenter, “Legislating Morality: Normative Ethics and the Shortcomings of the Crime Involving Moral Turpitude in the Immigration Legal Context,” Migration Law and Policy Section, The Migration Conference, University of Lisbon, Portugal (June 27-29, 2018)
  • Panelist, “The Legal and Religious Dimensions of Sanctuary,” Immigration in Philadelphia Panel, Eastern Sociological Society Conference, Philadelphia, PA (February 25, 2017)
  • Speaker, “Justice at the Margins: Migrant Rights, Realities, and Resilience in the U.S. Borderlands,” Global Mobility and the Social Life of the Law Lecture Series, Arcadia University (November 5, 2019)
  • Guest Lecturer, “Historicizing Sanctuary,” Sanctuary Cities Graduate Course, Urban Strategy Program, Drexel University (April 15, 2019)
  • Panelist, “The Boundaries of Deservingness,” Latinx Ivy League Conference, University of Pennsylvania (April 6, 2019)
  • Panelist, “Navigating Sanctuary: Cities’ Responses to Shifting Immigration Policies,” Penn’s Perry World House and the City of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania (November 14, 2018)
  • Speaker, ‘The Roots and Resilience of Philadelphia’s Sanctuary Movement,” Center for Peace and Justice Education, Villanova University (November 7, 2018)
  • Speaker, “Access to Justice and the Weaponization of Immigration Law,” Amnesty International - Philadelphia Chapter, Philadelphia, PA (October 25, 2018)
  • Panelist, “How Could this Happen? Unpacking the Legal Framework Enabling Family Separation,” Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project, University of Pennsylvania Law School (October 3, 2018)
  • Panelist, “Crimmigration and Immigration Enforcement,” LALSA Conference, University of Pennsylvania Law School (February 2, 2018)
  • Speaker, “An Immigrant’s Experience: Mental Health Access and Human Trafficking,” National Association of Social Workers - Pennsylvania Chapter, West Chester University (November 17, 2017)
  • Panelist, “DACA and Dreamers: Twenty-First Century Immigration Policy in America,” Delaware County Community College (October 31, 2017)
  • Speaker, “The Search for Truth in the Immigration Continuum” Catholic Immigrant Refugee Coalition Convening, Radnor, PA (September 22, 2017) 
  • Panelist, “Immigration Law and Constitutional Principles,” Annual Continuing Legal Education Conference, City of Philadelphia Law Department, Philadelphia, PA (July 27, 2017)
  • Panelist, “Dreamers in College: (Im)Migration and Successful Institutional Policies,” Latinos and Education Conference, Delaware County Community College, Marple, PA (April 7, 2017)
  • Presenter, “From Criminal Conviction to Civil Nightmare,” Philadelphia Bar Association, Philadelphia, PA (March 30, 2017)
  • Panelist, “Abriendo Puertas: Strengthening Latino Communities Through Mentoring, Leadership and Increasing College Access,” Latinos and Education Conference, Delaware County Community College, Marple, PA (April 15, 2016)
  • Guest Lecturer, “Crimes and Deportation: Pitfalls and Strategies within the Criminal and Immigration Legal Systems,” Immigration Law Class, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Philadelphia, PA (November 3, 2014)
  • Guest Lecturer, Advising Non-Citizens in Criminal Proceedings, Criminal Defense Clinic, Drexel University Law School, Philadelphia, PA (October 29, 2014)
  • Panelist, “Effective Immigration Practice for Solo and Small Firms,” Bench-Bar and Annual Conference, Philadelphia Bar Association, Atlantic City, NJ (October 18, 2014)
  • Panelist, “Diversity in Public Interest,” Temple University Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia, PA (September 8, 2014)
  • Panelist, “Immigration Consequences of Criminal Proceedings,” Philadelphia Municipal Court Judicial Conference, Philadelphia, PA (May 9, 2014)
  • Speaker, “Legal Challenges Facing Our Immigrant Communities,” TESOL Language and Linguistics Speaker Series, College of Education, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA (April 24, 2014)
  • Panelist, “A Dialogue about Immigration, Identity, and Policy,” Penn for Immigrant Rights, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (February 26, 2014)
  • Panelist, “The Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity,” Drexel University Law School, Philadelphia, PA (January 27, 2014)
  • Panelist, “Immigration Law and Practice Today,” Villanova University Law School, Villanova, PA (November 21, 2013)
  • Guest Lecturer, “Criminal Records and the Ban the Box Movement in Philadelphia,” Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (November 7, 2013)
  • Guest Lecturer, “Advising Non-Citizens in Criminal Proceedings,” Criminal Defense Clinic, Drexel University Law School, Philadelphia, PA (October 21, 2013)
  • Panelist, “Hot Topics in Immigrant Rights and Immigration Law,” Philadelphia Bar Association, Philadelphia, PA (June 6, 2013)
  • Panelist, “Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions and Sentencing in Pennsylvania Courts,” Pennsylvania Bar Association, Philadelphia, PA (April 23, 2013)
  • Guest Lecturer, “Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions,” Immigration Clinic, Temple University Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia, PA (March 20, 2013)
  • Guest Speaker, Criminal Records and the Ban the Box Movement, Rutgers School of Law, Camden, NJ (February 15, 2012)
  • Panelist, Criminal Records and the Ban the Box Movement in Philadelphia, Program on Documentaries and the Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Philadelphia, PA (January 18, 2012)
  • Speaker, “Welcoming the Stranger: Seeking Migrant Justice in the Borderlands,” Greenwich Reform Synagogue, Greenwich, CT (October 7, 2019)
  • Featured Expert, Segment on Immigration Raids, Telemundo 62, Philadelphia, PA (September 8, 2019)
  • Featured Expert, “Deportations, Detention, and Family Separation,” Encuentros Políticos/Political Encounters Radio Program, USALA Radio, Philadelphia, PA (July 4, 2018)
  • Keynote Speaker, “Leveraging Language for Change,” Phi Sigma Iota Honor Society Induction, Cabrini University (May 3, 2018)
  • Panelist, “How to Thrive as a Public Interest Lawyer,” Public Interest Week, University of Pennsylvania Law School (February 23, 2018)
  • Speaker, “The Resurgence of Secure Communities and 287(g) in a Trump Administration,” Coalición Fortaleza Latina, Norristown, PA (December 18, 2016)
  • Panelist, “Know Your Criminal and Immigration Rights,” Trans-Health Conference, Philadelphia, PA (June 14, 2014)

Awards and Recognition

  • Peter J. Gomes, STB ’68 Distinguished Alumni Award, Harvard Divinity School (2020)
  • Luminary Award, Cabrini University (2019)
  • Distinguished Faculty Award, Cabrini University (2019)
  • Superhero Award, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and S. New Jersey (2018)
  • Alumni Hall of Fame, Montgomery County Community College (2018)
  • Distinguished Achievement Award, Cabrini University Alumni Association (2017)
  • Honorary Member, Delta Epsilon Sigma (2017)
  • Faculty Development Summer Research Grant, Cabrini University (2016)
  • Langer, Grogan, and Diver Social Justice Fellowship (2011-2012)
  • Exemplary Pro Bono Service Award, University of Pennsylvania Law School (2011)
  • Law Student Pro Bono Honoree, Philadelphia Bar Association (2011)
  • Toll Public Interest Scholar, University of Pennsylvania Law School (2008-2011)
  • Nomination, Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, University of Pennsylvania (2006)
  • Penn Course Review’s Highest Rated Professors, University of Pennsylvania (2004-2008)
  • Valedictorian, Cabrini College (2001)