A Forum on Immigration Issues in Hampden County
The Western New England University School of Law held a regional forum to address the recent federal immigration policy changes, on February 3, in the Blake Law Center. The recent presidential election has focused attention on changes to the nation’s immigration laws and policies, and has created much uncertainty in communities that routinely resettle refugees. While immigration issues have national implications, the ultimate impact is often very local. The symposium gathered experts who work on behalf of immigrants to discuss how communities in western Massachusetts may be affected.
"There is a lot of fear,” explained Harris Freeman, Professor of Legal Research and Writing. “Immigrants with documents, and those without documents, are afraid that these changes will hurt them where they live, where they work, and where they raise their families. We have seen more enforcement, and we are working on sanctuary city issues.”
The forum participants included representatives from law firms and local community organizations that work on immigration issues on a daily basis. The panelists presented their perspectives on current policies, and how anticipated changes in immigration laws may affect the services they provide to their immigrant constituents. The presenters also provided information about how interested students and community members can become involved in serving the immigrant communities.
Deirdre Griffin, Director of the New American Program at Jewish Family Services explained that western Massachusetts has a long history of refugee resettlement. “More than 3,000 refugees have resettled in this region between 2011 and 2015, and Jewish Family Services helped resettle a third of those immigrants. Many of them were among the most vulnerable people on our planet.”
The forum provided accurate information to reduce the misinformation that is raising fears and concerns, and it encouraged further cooperation and collaboration among local service providers, advocates, and affected communities.
"My father came here with a dream," remarked Afshan Rehman, a junior majoring in Forensic Biology. "I came here to study and get a good job. Now I have no certainty." Rehman explained that she is not yet a citizen, and is using a student visa to stay in the country. She's afraid she might not be able to stay, and she's worried that changes to the H-1B Visa program will make it hard for her to get a job.
Sudha N. Setty, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Intellectual Life, and Professor of Law, moderated the forum. The event was free and open to the public with many community members attending.
View more photos of the Immigration Forum.
A video recording of this forum is available through the library archives.
View the flyer here.