Immigration workshop teaches ways to work for reform

By Trevor Wallace
October 8, 2009

Shannon Keough

As part of a push to help reform the current immigration laws, an immigration reform workshop was held on Tuesday, Oct. 6, as part of Fair Trade Day. Consisting of two parts, the workshop dealt with how students can organize events on campus to promote awareness, and how to deal with the subject on a larger scale by contacting Congress to present the immigration reform topic.

The workshop had in attendance immigration reform representatives, as well as students and faculty from Cabrini College and St. Joseph’s University. Chris West, a community organizer with Catholic Relief Services from the Baltimore headquarters and Jill Gerschutz, a member of Justice For Immigrants, led the workshop in an engaging discussion on how to start the process for changing current immigration laws.

“We want to design a system that will allow immigrants into our country, which will alleviate the pressure on our borders, and fix a broken system,” West said.

At present, insufficient work visas are issued for immigrants who migrate into our country to fill needed jobs, according to Gerschutz. Immigrants who do not get the needed visa sometimes make long journeys sometimes walking three days into the deserts of America’s southern border states, to come to find jobs that will keep their families in other countries alive and well.

Church’s recommendations for rewriting American law on the current immigration system, West and Gerschutz have held numerous workshops to bring students together to make a change.

“Prior to the mid 1990s signing of NAFTA’s strengthening of border control, 80 percent of immigrants were able to find work within two weeks of entering the country, the same country where the duration of unemployment insurance has been lengthened under the Obama administration,” Gershutz said.

Since 1994, over 100,000 families have been split apart because of issues of citizenship and proper documentation within the family. As a result of this, $35 billion has gone to border enforcements since then.

“Immigration reform is a necessity,” says reform supporters. In agreement with United States bishops, they want part of the reform to require illegal immigrants to pay a fine and get in the back of the line to earn citizenship. This would be opposed to what happens now, where immigrants without proper documentation are deported immediately, leaving behind families and lives they’ve created in America.

According to Gershutz, American law has come to a point where illegal immigrants are stripped of due process, even though it is stated in the constitution that due process is an inalienable right to all humans.

After discussion of immigration as it is today, the workshop was split into two parts, each dealing with organization skills to promote awareness and how to present arguments to Congress to get their attention.

“The best way to get people involved is simply by asking them,” West said.

In order to help awareness on campus with organizing skills are needed to entice people’s self interests, so that they will come to meetings and participate in other projects.

West pointed out that whoever controls the language controls the debate, so how the problem is defined matters. West suggested starting from the premise that the actual current immigration policy is broken, which would then change the way people approach the problem.

Dr. Mary Laver, director of international partnerships, oversaw the event and is an avid supporter of the need for immigration reform.

“What is the human cost of our current immigration policy?” Laver asked. “Our goal is to help raise awareness among non-immigrants, because these are the people who can vote and influence our policy makers.”

If students want to become a part of the reform movement, students can contact Cabrini’s CRS ambassadors, or email Jill Gerschutz at

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Trevor Wallace

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