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Immigration panel invites student, faculty participation

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Students and faculty discussed shared experiences surrounding immigration and racial prejudice on Thursday during a panel discussion as part of the Conversations for Change series.

Sponsored by Student Association’s Department of Intercultural Affairs and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the two-hour event featured a panel of six guest speakers comprised of students and faculty.

“It is very much tied to issues of quality of life,” said Dr. Harvey Charles, dean for international education and vice provost of global strategy. “A desire to be human and to live a reasonable life that affords security.”

Also on the panel: Dr. Carl Bon Tempo, associate professor of history; Ibrahim Abdalla, a graduate student at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity; Alison Marteniz, a junior majoring in sociology and leadership studies; and Tajnin Islam, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice and business.

“I couldn’t take advantage of a lot of things because I didn’t know, and my parents didn’t know,” said Abdalla of his experience immigrating to America from Sudan in 2009.

Abdalla, whose family moved to Albany after his father was granted political asylum following his protesting of a dam construction in his village, had no previous knowledge of the United States prior to his move here.

“I had the biggest culture shock there is,” he said. After teaching himself English, Abdalla graduated from UAlbany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, where he is now a graduate student.

The panelists and audience members spent much of the evening discussing how immigrants coming to America are made to feel inferior simply because they were not born in the United States.

“All my life I’ve always seen how Latinos have essentially always been kind of degraded in the media,” said Marteniz, whose mother immigrated from Honduras. “I’ve never seen anyone of my complexion or anyone whose came from Latin countries actually enjoy rights as immigrants because if anything, they’re seen as people who come in and take our jobs.”

Members of the audience shared their experiences living as immigrants or children of immigrants in the United States.

“Why is it that coming from another place is a crime?” asked Langie Cadesca, Student Association president-elect. “What about that makes me different as an individual, as a human? What about my existence threatens this country?”

Cadesca, whose family immigrated from Haiti, explained that to change the culture in America surrounding immigration people need to know that immigrants are people who came to this country seeking a better life.

“Conversations like this are very important, especially for people who don’t know much about immigrants,” said Abdalla following the event. “People made some very good points about what they actually go through as an immigrant or what immigrants in general face.”


Chad Arnold is a reporter for the Albany Student Press covering Student Association affairs. He is also an die-hard heavy metal fan.

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