Immigrant and refugee issues will be front and center in a new Ohio State workshop series this October.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is collaborating with the Advocates for Basic Legal Equality and the Ohio Immigration Alliance to host a four-part virtual workshop about the immigrant and refugee experience in Ohio called, “Ohio Immigrants and Refugees: Lived Experiences, Mobilizing for Change.”
Maria Otero, an attorney in ABLE’s agricultural worker and immigrant rights practice group and the lead organizer of the workshop, said she hopes that the conference attendees learn how to be accepting to immigrants and refugees.
“As an immigrant myself, I know it’s not always easy to be an immigrant or refugee in Ohio,” Otero said. “And while some people act out of ignorance, there are many more people who want to learn about immigrant and refugee experiences and welcome us here.”
The four-part conference will discuss immigrant and refugee experiences in Ohio, educational challenges and barriers immigrants and their children face, current immigration policy, and ways people can make Ohio a more welcoming place for immigrants and refugees. Otero said that the conference is not just about the problems, but the actions people are taking to overcome them.
“I think the main thing that we want is for people to be inspired to figure out a way that they can help,” Otero said. “If all you can do is donate to an organization, or maybe you can volunteer, or get inspired to run for the city council or find out about different campaigns or issues that are out there that nobody is talking about.”
The challenges that immigrants and refugees face is a widespread problem all throughout the United States, especially in public schools. According to the Center for Immigration Studies website, of the 23 percent of public school students in the United States that came from an immigrant household, 28 percent of those students lived in poverty. Students from immigrant families made up almost a third of all students living in poverty in 2015.
Yolanda Zepeda, associate vice provost for ODI and co-organizer of the virtual conference, said the conference is designed to get students thinking not only about the immigrant experience, but also about their own privilege.
“I think it is very important for our Ohio State community to understand the day-to-day experiences that immigrants and refugees are facing,” Zepeda said. “We have a lot of students and colleagues among us who do not have the kinds of secure circumstances that we enjoy.”
The first session will feature Daniela Pierre-Bravo, booking producer for “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, as the keynote speaker. She will speak about her experience on navigating the path to college and through a largely complex university that does not have clear policies or systems for students with DACA status.
“Ohio Immigrants and Refugees: Lived Experiences, Mobilizing for Change” will take place Friday from 10 a.m. to noon via Zoom. Students can register for the event and request accommodations on the ODI website. The event will be live captioned.