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Event calms immigration concerns

Faculty from Baruch College’s Weissman School of Arts & Sciences and Marxe School of Public and International Affairs organized an immigration event entitled “Immigration Teach-In” on Thursday, Dec. 1. The event featured a panel of experts, professors and students who expressed genuine concern for the potential changes that may come to immigration policy in the near future as a result of the election of Donald Trump.

The event started at 12:45 p.m. with complimentary pizza and beverages in the Multipurpose Room of the Newman Vertical Campus. Early on, participants were encouraged to express how they felt by standing up and voicing their concerns and by going to the MakerHub table located close to the entrance of the room.

The table had colored pencils, paper and other craft materials to give a medium to those wishing to express themselves. To the left of the table, a large piece of white construction paper had been set up on the wall with the words “I Hope” written in large letters across the top.

Similar to the sticky notes at 14th Street-Union Square station, known as Subway Therapy, the white construction paper was set up so attendees could write what they hoped for on a sticky note, adding to a collective of ideas—a way to remind them they were not alone.

The event itself served as a reminder that those suffering in silence need not do so; there are many others like them who can relate. The first speaker was an undocumented student who wished to remain anonymous.

The student photographer currently works as a bus boy at Trump SoHo, a hotel condominium. Despite the possibility of losing his job, he was adamant about why it was necessary for him to stand against a man who claimed immigrants were murderers, rapists and thieves.

Calling himself a photographic activist, the student started with a two-and-a-half-minute long documentary he was featured in and helped put together. Following the documentary, he spoke passionately about undocumented people in the United States and for people who rely on President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that went into effect on June 2012.

Undocumented immigrants who are approved for DACA get a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

Meetu Dhar, a staff attorney for CUNY Citizenship Now! was next to speak. Dhar explained that CUNY Citizenship Now! provides free counseling services for those in need. Dhar also advised those with current work authorization to renew it as soon as possible before the new administration takes office on Jan. 20, 2017.

CUNY Citizenship Now! is offering expedited services to help immigrants get their work authorization and DACA papers done faster in the coming months.

After Dhar, Professor Rob Smith of the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs took the stage. Smith gave insight into how many immigrants are under the assumption that they cannot receive in-state tuition when, in reality, they can. Smith also mentioned that before his time at CUNY, he was an advocate for immigrant in-state tuition.

Later on during the event, both Hattie Quarnstrom-Figueroa, deputy director of the New York State Office for New Americans, and Samuel Solomon, deputy director of policy for the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs reassured immigrants that they were safe. They answered a question about the gap between federal- and state-level power over immigration, saying that the federal government has power over who comes in, who gets kicked out and who gets DACA.

However, once in New York State, the state has power over who gets ID cards, who gets health care and who can attend schools.

Both of them went on to reassure the crowd that even if Trump were to attempt mass deportation, it would take years to come to fruition, along with a lot of paperwork and many expenses.

Art King, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, as well as Monica Sibri, founder and president of CUNY DREAMers, were the last two speakers. King shared an anecdote about his personal immigration from Barbados, while Sibri spoke about her determination as an immigrant to not be silenced. Sibri also spoke about her initiative within CUNY DREAMers, which she started as a network of support for undocumented students, as stated on the organization’s website.

The entirety of the “Immigration Teach-In” worked as a way to let DACA and undocumented immigrants know that they were not alone. Aside from being an informative event, it also let immigrants know that although future policy changes may frighten them, there are ways to stave off negative outcomes and combat attacks to their livelihoods.

The event ended with final words from all the panelists, questions and a resounding applause from undocumented and documented students alike.

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