2019 Edith Harris Event: Advocating for Social Justice: Immigration Policy and Social Work Practice

Michigan is home to nearly three-quarters of a million immigrants. One in 12 Michigander’s are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent. As social workers in the urban community of Detroit, we encounter clients facing residency and asylum challenges frequently. Our commitment to create social work knowledge while addressing broader struggles to advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice has lead us to develop a series of events to open the discussion of immigration, social work and how we can advocate for social justice in this arena. The Wayne State University School of Social Work would like to invite you to attend the second event in this series, the 32nd annual Edith Harris Endowed Memorial Panel Discussion entitled Advocating for Social Justice: Immigration Policy and Social Work Practice. This event will illuminate the issues that immigrants and refugees experience in our local Detroit area and will be followed by a public reception in the Law School. Attendees will engage in a discussion with panel experts on social work practice, legal challenges and advocacy strategies they can utilize when working with clients and their communities.

Thursday, November 21, 2019
Presentations & Panel Discussion: 3 to 5 pm
Reception: 5 to 6 pm (free reception with refreshments open to attendees)
Wayne State University Law School, Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium
(471 W. Palmer, Detroit, 48202)

This FREE event has been approved by the MI Social Work Continuing Education Collaborative for 2 FREE Social Work CE contract hours under CE Approval #: MICEC-0058. No pre-registration is required. Visit the WSU Event Calendar or contact Katie Alfonsi at 313-577-9348 or ec6856@wayne.edu for questions.

Peter Hammer


Wayne State Professor of Law and Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, Peter Hammer, PhD will serve as moderator and provide a brief presentation "The Immigration crisis through the historic lens of structural racism." The current immigration crisis is just the latest episode of cycles of racialized othering in America. This discussion will place the present moment in a context of the racialized hostility targeting Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans and Mexican Americans. The Keith Center is dedicated to promoting the educational, economic and political empowerment of under-represented communities in urban areas and to ensuring that the phrase "equal justice under law" applies to all members of society.

Sabrina Balgmwalla


Sabrina Balgmwalla, Wayne State University Law School Assistant Professor (Clinical) and Director of the Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic will serve as a panelist and present "What Advocates Need to Know About Humanitarian Immigration". Immigration policy has been used in a number of divisive ways to intimidate community members and those who need help from coming forward for assistance. This presentation will briefly introduce forms of humanitarian immigration relief and explain how they have been affected by executive policy changes. The Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic (AILC) at Wayne State University Law School offers free legal services to Michigan residents seeking immigration relief. 

Deborah Drennan


Deborah A. Drennan, Chief Executive Director of Freedom House Detroit will serve as a panelist and will present "Immigration Law". Freedom House Detroit is a temporary home for indigent survivors of persecution from around the world who are seeking asylum in the United States and Canada. Their mission is to uphold a fundamental American principle, one inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, providing safety for those “yearning to breathe free.” Guided by their belief that all persons deserve to live free from oppression and to be treated with justice, compassion and dignity, Freedom House offers a continuum of care and services to our residents as well as to other refugees in need. They advocate for systemic change that more fully recognizes the rights of asylum seekers.

Rima Meroueh


Rima Meroueh is the Advocacy and Community Engagement Manager at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) will serve as a panelist and present the “Impact of Immigration Policies: The disproportionate impact on communities of color”. The session will demonstrate how immigration policies have continued to reinforce systems that keep immigrant communities from accessing resources and institutions for health and well-being, the importance of crafting intentional and strategic policies to dismantle systems that encourage discrimination towards immigrant communities, and explain how health care and education policies promote anti-immigrant practices. ACCESS strives to enable and empower individuals, families, and communities to lead informed, productive and culturally sensitive lives. They honor our Arab American heritage through community-building and service to all those in need, of every heritage. 

Jessie Urban Guzman


Jessie Urban-Guzman, LMSW, MPH, Youth and Legal Program Director LA VIDA Partnership at CHASS will serve as a panelist and present “Immigration and its Intersection with Domestic and Sexual Violence”. This presentation will explore issues encountered when working with immigrant survivors of intimate partner violence and concerns to be aware of related to safety planning and systems and advocacy techniques. The LA VIDA Partnership, a community program of CHASS Center, is a domestic violence and sexual assault intervention and prevention program that provides linguistically and culturally appropriate services and resources targeted to Latino/a youth and families in Southwest Detroit and Southeast Michigan. 

Interested in having your students attend the lecture for class credit? We can track attendance for you! Simply contact Katie Alfonsi at ec6856@wayne.edu with your student roster and we will send you the attendance record after the lecture!

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