Penn State Law, State College Borough partner to welcome and protect immigrants

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Borough of State College is officially an inclusive and welcoming place for immigrants and local residents regardless of their immigration status, thanks to a formal resolution that came out of a partnership with the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

The resolution — which was unanimously passed by the State College Borough Council on Jan. 9 — was written in collaboration with Penn State Law Professor and Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Director Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia.

It clearly states the borough’s position that all people, regardless of national origin or citizen status, are welcome in State College, as well as the position that “enforcing immigration law is a federal responsibility.”

The idea for the resolution was first proposed by Borough Council members Evan Myers and Jesse Barlow in December, after the borough passed a nondiscrimination resolution affirming its commitment to minority residents and underrepresented populations. The two council members approached Wadhia for help in drafting a comprehensive resolution.

“There is huge value in our municipality going on record so comprehensively and with inclusivity around the area of immigration, which has not only been a provocative issue in the wake of the presidential election, but has left vulnerable populations feeling even more marginalized and fearful,” Wadhia said.

In the resolution, the borough also affirms that it will continue to partner with the Penn State Law Immigrants’ Rights Clinic to host events to educate the community on immigration law and policy — a partnership that is already hard at work. Myers and Barlow, as well as State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, participated in a statewide teach-in on immigrants’ rights hosted by the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic on Thursday, Jan. 13, at Penn State Law’s Lewis Katz Building.

“I think it’s important for us to recognize the role of immigration in this area, as well as our nation, as immigrants have had a large and very positive impact on State College and Penn State,” Barlow said.

In drafting the ordinance, Wadhia provided input on the complexities of immigration law and the role of local and federal governments in immigration law enforcement to ensure the resolution formed the basis for sound and ethical local policy. The resolution also strongly condemns any attempt to register or track individuals based on religion, ethnicity, national origin, or citizenship, such as the proposed “Muslim registry” about which Wadhia has written and spoken extensively.

The resolution is, in part, the result of dialogue between the borough and the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic over the past several years, Wadhia said. The clinic will work with the borough to build on the resolution by developing and implementing comprehensive and practical policy, with further possibilities in the future for the borough and clinic to work together to host events and provide information on immigration law to the State College community.

“It’s been very rewarding to work with the State College Borough on this issue, and I look forward to continuing our partnership to ensure that our community remains a safe and welcoming place for all,” Wadhia said.

Last Updated January 13, 2017