~ by Abel Rodríguez Inaugural Director, Center on Immigration and Assistant Professor of Religion, Law, and Social Justice Cabrini University

At the Heart of Our Work

The Center on Immigration at Cabrini University seeks to honor the legacy of Saint Francesca Cabrini by advancing the human rights and human dignity of people in migration. We do this work through initiatives that focus on education, advocacy, and research. Specifically, for example, we host experts to discuss pressing issues of interest to the campus community and beyond, and our staff provides education to the community about legal and financial rights. The Center’s advocacy efforts include organizing students to call for more just immigration policies at our state and national capitals, and we provide free legal advice and representation to noncitizens. Our publications aim to influence law and policy, and we bring together prominent researchers biannually to discuss their work. By building community among students, advocates, and scholars, we educate others and build power to persuade lawmakers, calling for more just policies for immigrant communities.

Our Proudest Achievement and Our Greatest Challenge

Undoubtedly, our greatest joy has been cultivating a passion for advocacy and immigrant justice among the next generation. Each semester, we organize, train, and transport students from various universities to meet with the staff of elected officials, or sometimes the elected officials themselves. We are incredibly proud of the students, who have educated politicians of the realities immigrants face and speak truth to power. They remain professional, representing their universities with pride, while unafraid to challenge representatives who are dismissive or misinformed. Their advocacy is grounded in authoritative research and, most importantly, in the experiences of those directly impacted by harmful policies. This advocacy is growing. In spring 2020, before the pandemic caused us to cancel the trip, we anticipated taking more than 100 students to speak with at least 20 members of U.S. Congress.

Perhaps our greatest challenge is the current political climate in the U.S. and globally. Attacking immigrant communities, blaming them for society’s ills, is not new, but it has intensified. The law is increasingly used to punish those who migrate, placing them in detention centers or denying them asylum despite genuine fear of harm or death. Lawmakers are more resistant to enacting beneficial reforms. Representing noncitizens in legal matters has become a more hostile process. Immigrant communities are denigrated simply for fleeing danger or seeking abundant lives. It is becoming increasingly difficult to effect positive change for people in migration, both in the courts and in the halls of Congress. We are rising to this challenge by working closely with grassroots organizations to strengthen our numbers and educating the public of the realities faced by people on the move.

A Call for All of Us to Take Action

We believe that justice for immigrant communities is critical because people on the move are often particularly vulnerable. Unprecedented numbers of people are fleeing unyielding persecution, crushing poverty, unmitigated violence, and irreparable climate change. We fight with and for immigrant communities as they face considerable legal obstacles from the very governments that, for their own benefit, perpetuate global inequality, produce political instability, and disproportionately pollute the planet. As people of conscience, we must fight for policies that prohibit governments from imprisoning children in punitive detention systems, sending people to their deaths as a result of unjust asylum laws, and dividing the love of families through mass deportations. To support this work, we encourage you to connect with us to join our advocacy efforts and attend our educational events.

Visit the Cabrini Center on Immigration WEBSITE.

Follow the Cabrini Center in Immigration on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Abel Rodríguez (’01) is Director of the Center on Immigration and Assistant Professor of Religion, Law, and Social Justice at Cabrini University.  His scholarship, teaching, and advocacy focus on migrant justice.  He is an expert and frequent speaker on immigration policy and the intersection of criminal and immigration law.       

Prior to Cabrini, Rodríguez held a split position as the immigration specialist at the Defender Association of Philadelphia and staff attorney at Nationalities Service Center, where he advised and represented noncitizen clients facing deportation.  He also worked as the Langer, Grogan, and Diver Social Justice Fellow at Esperanza Immigration Legal Services, where he represented individuals with disabilities and older adults in their immigration matters.  He has taught the immigration clinic at Temple University Law School, political science at La Salle University, and Spanish language at the University of Pennsylvania.     

Rodríguez earned a Juris Doctor at the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Theological Studies at Harvard University, a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies at Stanford University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish at Cabrini College.

As the son of immigrants and a first-generation college graduate, raised in a working-class community near Cabrini, he is delighted to be on the faculty of his alma mater, an institution dedicated to social justice and named for the patroness of immigrants.

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