Campus gets crash course on immigration law

By Connor Carynski, Campus Reporter

Immigration lawyers, speaking March 3 to a Columbia assembly, addressed a wide range of fears and inquiries triggered by the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants and visa holders.  

Titled “Critical Questions: What is Immigration Like Today?,” the lecture in the  Hokin Lecture Hall of the 623 S. Wabash Ave. Building covered the latest changes to immigration policy from administrative decisions. The changes included Trump’s travel ban executive order filed on Jan. 27, the impact that colleges could face from the changes and what institutions can do to support vulnerable students. The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Global Learning collaborated in the creation of the event.

Steve Navarre and Susan Fortino-Brown, both Chicago immigration lawyers for Navarre Law Firm, addressed the assembly. Both have worked in immigration law for more than twenty years and have held leadership positions in the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Fortino-Brown said when Trump was elected, her clients came to her, expressing concern about their status in the U.S. and asking whether there was any way they could apply for permanent residency.

“I think everyone is affected by the fear and the rhetoric going around,” Fortino-Brown told The Chronicle. “There’s been a panic in the last four weeks that everyone is pretty well aware of. Even  old clients are coming out of the woodwork, people who have their permanent residence or green cards, asking, ‘Can I travel? Am I safe here?’”

Almanya Narula, a 2016 theatre and business & entrepreneurship alumna and  Thailand native, said she attended the lecture because she was concerned about the expiration of her optional practical training, a yearlong opportunity for international students to get experience in their field of study following graduation.

“I have become a part of [the Chicago] industry, and I am trying to figure out how I can prolong my influence and efforts that I have done for the past year for the next couple of years,” Narula said. “Immigration is a real [fear] of mine considering my time is limited, so I’m trying to figure out everything I can do.”

Narula added there should be more meetings concerning immigration law and more incentive for international students to attend. 

Kevin Obomanu, international admissions officer in the Office of Global Education, assisted in the coordination of the assembly and said the session was extremely important for students because new immigration laws have the potential to affect international  and foreign exchange students .

“[Immigrations laws] are things that we need to be aware of; what this means and how we can protect all our students, regardless of their citizenship status,” Obomanu said. “This is something we have to be very [knowledgeable] about because it’s going to affect all of us.”

International and foreign exchange students are concerned about the current climate regarding immigration law, which Fortino-Brown said is why Columbia wanted to host the meeting.  

“One thing that colleges can do, which is what Columbia is doing, is hold these informational seminars and allowing lawyers to give counsel to individuals who might be subject to some of these executive orders,” Fortino-Brown said.