Scranton Immigrant Inclusion Committee Embraces Jesuit Mission
by James Leonard | Staff Writer
SCRANTON — Two chairs from the Scranton Immigrant Inclusion Committee are educating University students through Community-Based Learning (CBL) talks.
The April 12 talk was a part of the University initiative, which — according to the university’s website — aims to, “Provide development and support resources for University faculty through grants, workshops, and curriculum development. CBL is an academic experience that involves students working with individuals, groups, or organizations in ways structured to meet community-defined needs.”
The site goes on to mention how CBL events can help students embrace the Jesuit mission of the University through, “incorporating a global perspective and understanding through integration of theory with practice, direct engagement with community members and personal and critical academic reflection.”
Alejandra Marroquin and Jenny Gonzalez have worked to address bias in the Scranton community and advocate for greater inclusion of immigrants to the greater Scranton area in recent years.
The program presented, “Immigration Inclusion: An Examination,” aimed to educate University and community members on the struggles immigrants face upon entering the country, and more specifically the Scranton area.
The talk was made up of students from both the University of Scranton and Marywood University.
Held virtually over Zoom, Monday’s program began with a presentation followed by a question and answer session. The demographic of immigrants specifically addressed were immigrants from south of the United States border, in South and Central America.
Gonzalez mentioned how the Scranton area has a rich history of immigration, dating back to the mid-19th century.
“This area of Northeastern Pennsylvania did not see a population of European immigrants until the mid-19th century with the discovery of coal and other natural resources,” Gonzolez said.
She discussed how since the establishment of the city, the population has in fact decreased when compared to when the city was established.
“A lot of immigrants are moving not only from other countries, but are also leaving bigger cities in which they first arrived to gain better education and living situations,” she said.
Gonzalez continued by elaborating on reasons why there has been an influx of Latin American immigration to the United States, and specifically to Northeast Pennsylvania, in recent years.
“There are a plethora of reasons that people from Latin America leave to come here,” Gonzalez said. “No matter how hard some immigrants work in their own countries, they are a lot of the time still unable to fund socioeconomic status, financial stability, and even proper education because unlike here, almost every school requires some sort of tuition payment.”
According to Marroquin, over the past 30 years, migrants have come in large numbers from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Columbia, and Brazil.
Other reasons for immigration include things like political turmoil or corruption, and even natural disasters.
“Hurricane Maria affected thousands in Puerto Rico, which caused an influx of migrants to the United States this past year,” Maroquin said.
Marroquin discussed the requirements immigrants need to pass in order to come into the United States.
“Immigrants either have a family member already in the United States, get a work visa and can enter a lottery for a visa,” Marroquin said.
She continued by saying how there is also sometimes a need to execute a fourth option.
“Sometimes there is no choice and some people need to get here without a petition or employment, which many families have to do as a last resort,” Marroqiun said.
Marroquin said the journey is not guaranteed and is extremely dangerous. It is even sometimes more costly than the previous three methods of entry to the United States.
Jenny Gonzalez took the helm afterward and discussed what the two of them do for immigrants at their office.
“In Northeastern Pennsylvania, we have been advocating for Latin American communities and even migrants from Africa to help bring down language barriers so immigrants can properly go through the process and gain full citizenship in this country,” Gonzalez said.
She said that the office advocates for things like hiring more bilingual employees within the communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania, to help acclimate the influx of Latin American immigrants to life in the United States.
“This is critical in the healthcare sector and also to educate immigrants on things like the rights they have as citizens,” she said.
She continued to mention how a lack of education leads to immigrant families being unable to get out of poverty. Their office aims to educate the immigrants themselves, but also the community around them to help incorporate immigrants into the Northeastern Pennsylvania community and combat things such as prejudice and criminalization of immigrants.
“We are very hopeful looking into the future after all of the progress we have made over the years in the inclusion of more immigrants into our communities and educating the current residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Gonzalez said.
After the talk, attendee Rachel Weber, a Latin American studies student said, “This is a topic that really interests me even though I was born here and am not of Latin American descent. This event is a great way to educate people on the events currently transpiring on our border in a way that shows how us as a community is directly affected here.”
The Immigration Inclusion Committee that Marroquin and Gonzalez work for provides bi-monthly meetings between a variety of organizations, including the United Neighborhood Centers, the University of Scranton and Marywood University.
This event was the last of three Community-Based Learning events the University hosts every semester.
If interested in attending one of these events, visit Royal Sync and register for a Community-Based Learning event.
They are usually posted several weeks in advance and to register, filling out a Survey Monkey is necessary. The link is provided via Royal Sync, and after filling out the survey an email will be sent with a confirmation and Zoom link for as long as the events are virtual.
For questions on this event and other Community-Based Learning events, email firstname.lastname@example.org.