If you spent time with student Fabrine De Oliveira (’20), you’d discover that she and her family immigrated here from Brazil when she was 3 years old. Her parents wanted better opportunities for their children, starting with their education.
“In appreciation of everything my parents have done for me, I have always put my best effort forward in school,” she said at the official launch of Cabrini’s Center on Immigration on Thursday, April 27, 2017.
De Oliveira, a Business Management major with minors in Human Resources Management and Spanish, is one student, with one story, out of the many immigrants who have come to the United States for better opportunities, many of whom are facing daily injustices. Currently, De Oliveira said, immigrant students are avoiding study abroad or trips to their countries of origin for fear that they would not be permitted back into the United States.
The Center on Immigration will work to raise awareness of issues, such as these, affecting immigrant communities.
“Consistent with the mission of Cabrini University, and always with the intent on honoring the legacy of Mother Cabrini and the Missionary Sisters, the Center on Immigration will take action to confront the inherent injustices in the immigration system,” said Abel Rodríguez, JD (’01), Director of the Center and Assistant Professor of Religion, Law, and Social Justice.
Cabrini’s namesake, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini—the patron saint of immigrants—served the Italian immigrant community in New York, NY, more than a century ago, and faced similar challenges to what we are encountering today. The people she served were denigrated for their ethnicity, as well as their religion, and the negative perceptions of people in migration persist, said Rodríguez.
The Center on Immigration will engage in active resistance, using a nonpartisan approach, to the injustices immigrant communities face, through advocacy and scholarship.
“It will act as a resource for students, faculty, and staff of this University,” Rodríguez said. “We will create opportunity for informed discussion about immigration, raise consciousness of the immigration experience, and equip people with knowledge of their rights.”
Cabrini’s launch of the Center included panelists discussing the crucial topic of immigration/migration before an audience of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, who filled the Mansion Foyer.
Luz B. Colon, Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, also spoke at the event, presenting a congratulatory message from Governor Tom Wolf.
Panel participants included Erika Almirón, Executive Director of Juntos; Yolanda Flores, MSC (’82), Family Program Coordinator at Cabrini Immigrant Services; John Grogan, Esq., Founding Partner at Langer, Grogan and Diver PC; Hernán Guaracao, Publisher & CEO of AL DÍA News Media and member of the Cabrini Board of Trustees; and Steven Larín, Esq., Senior Director of Legal Services & Immigration Policy at Nationalities Service Center.
When moderator Steve Highsmith (’88) posed a question about our current climate and how the Center should react, panelist Almirón responded, “Citizenship is not the goal; freedom, liberation, and dignity are,” noting that more than 50 percent of people arrested during current raids are not criminals, and the first step in questioning the immigration system is to question the criminal justice system.
“I think that there’s more that officials can do, and a place like Cabrini and the Center can help push some of those policies that need to be changed,” Almirón said.
Christine Marie Baltas, MSC ('66), and Mark Kiselica, PhD, present the MSC seal to Abel Rodriguez, JD ('01) (center)
At the conclusion of the event, Mark Kiselica, PhD, Dean of the School of Humanities and the Social Sciences—which houses the Center on Immigration—and Christine Marie Baltas, MSC (’66), Campus Ministry Associate, presented Rodríguez with a framed seal of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The Center is already making strides toward transforming the country into a place that truly welcomes the stranger; one of the Center’s first steps, in conjunction with the Wolfington Center, was to hold a “Know Your Rights” training and discussion with students, faculty, and staff on May 2. The event was designed to provide people with information to assert their rights in encounters with law enforcement.
For more pictures from the event, see the University’s Flickr album.
For more of our coverage of the Center’s launch, view our press release.