On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, the Center for Immigration Law, Policy and Justice (CILPJ) held a panel titled, Colloquium of Sanctuary: “Providing Sanctuary for Immigrant Families”. The event was well attended by students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. Professor Villazor provided opening remarks and introduced the Center’s two fellows Alma Godinez-Navarro and Melgily Valdez.
Marco Antonio Castillo from Red de Pueblos Nacionales/Global Exchange spoke about his experience reuniting families who have spent years away from each other even when tragedy strikes. His organization provides resources and support to families in Mexico who would like to visit their family in the United States. His organization facilitates the process for applying for nonimmigrant tourist visas. Professor Janice Gallagher is an Assistant Professor of Political Science who spoke about her experiences with helping people apply for nonimmigrant visas. Professor Gallagher has traveled extensively in South America. She noted that with the current administration it has become harder for applicants to be approved for these nonimmigrant visas.
A powerful example of their work was shown in a film titled, “When We Meet Again”. http://newestamericans.com/when-we-meet-again/. The film, which was put together by the Newest Americans and Center for Migration and the Global City, showed families reuniting at Rutgers Law School in Newark for the first time in years. It was a powerful and moving display of the importance of family reunification.
Professor Randi Mandelbaum is the Director of the Center for Child Advocacy Clinic at Rutgers Law School. She spoke about family separation at the border and the housing of hundreds of children in tents. These children are treated poorly. They lack access to a safe environment and education. These children have been taken from their parents and the parents, in many cases, have already been deported. It is unclear what the future holds for these children.
Erin Sweeney is a 1LE Rutgers Law student who is focusing on immigrant and human rights. She spoke in depth about her experience as a consular officer in Nigeria and explained that, in general, consular officers typically review documents between 45 to 60 seconds before making a decision on whether to approve a non-immigrant visa. It shows the significant power that consular officers have in the daily lives of people who want to see their families in the United States
Overall, the event highlighted how families continue to be separated by immigration law and underscored the need to continue identifying ways of reunifying immigrant families. The evening ended with many eager questions from the audience.