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Panelists Share The Intersection of Migrant Justice With Various Career Paths

The meaning of the term “migrant” can be broadly applied to anyone who is from a region other than the one in which they reside, according to Emily Hoffman, collaborative educational services director of the Massachusetts Migrant Education Program.

“Migrant has many different definitions,” Hoffman said.

Boston College’s Center for Human Rights and International Justice hosted a panel of professionals from different fields to share their reasons for engaging in migration advocacy.

Jeannette Huezo, executive director of United for a Fair Economy, shared her story of immigrating from El Salvador to the U.S. to find work and pursue an education. When her visa expired, she chose to stay in America illegally for fear of being murdered back in El Salvador, she said.

“I didn’t see my kids for 12 years,” Huezo said. “But my focus shifted to those who were like me. I fought for the ABC case, where Salvadorians and Guatemalans can seek asylum from their violent countries in the United States.”

Hoffman said her work in the Peace Corps, where she learned about the role of immigration as a determinant of healthcare access, inspired her to pursue migrant education.

“Immigration has a big influence on who we serve and where we go,” Hoffman said. “Every state looks different. Massachusetts, for example, is very socially minded. It has healthcare for all, regardless of status.”

M. Emilia Bianco, a researcher and educator at the Boston University School of Social Work, said witnessing inequality during her upbringing also motivated her to pursue social justice initiatives.

“Coming from Argentina, I saw deep inequality,” Bianco said.

Bianco said she was further inspired to engage with social justice issues when she left Argentina and found people being deprived of fundamental rights in the United States as well.

“Coming to the U.S. for a better education, I came into contact with so many asylum seekers,” Bianco said. “They lacked so many rights.”

Shelley K. White, associate professor and director of experiential learning at BC, also shared stories of how she got involved in the field of migrant justice.

“I work in the borderlands of Arizona,” White said. “I got there because of the work I did in Tijuana.”

As an undergraduate student at Boston University, White said she was presented with the opportunity to join a Habitat for Humanity project in Tijuana, Mexico, a city bordering California. There, she was confronted with a life-altering sight, she said.

“There was a metal wall that extended into the Pacific Ocean,” White said. “I heard of the stories of people drowning trying to get around it.”

April 12, 2024