Workshop Highlight: PA is Not Arizona

By Zachary Adams, TRCF Intern

Those who support the foreign presence call them “undocumented workers,” while those who want these individuals out of our space call them “illegal aliens.”  Whatever your dialectic preference, the American Friends Service Committee will discuss this hot button issue during their part of the “Pennsylvania is not Arizona” workshop on Friday, October 14th from 3:00 – 4:30 pm.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker group composed of individuals from various backgrounds, all of whom are dedicated to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service.  Basing programs on the principles of the Religious Society of Friends, they wish for equality among all men and for compassion rather than violence and injustice.

The Committee focuses on three areas in particular – human rights issues, the costs of war, and the elimination of forms of torture.  These areas of concern are approached through dialogue – in drama, art, and vigils – as tools for bonding individuals within communities, so we may all better understand both our neighbors and those we have yet to meet.

During the Friday workshop, Scilla Wahrhaftig of the American Friends Service Committee, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network will discuss new legislation being proposed in Pennsylvania.  One law would declare English the official and only language of PA with the parochial mentality of “learn our language or leave,” thereby limiting the accessibility of information to non-native English speakers and non-English speaking persons alike.  The other, wishes to give Pennsylvanian law enforcement many of the powers granted in Arizona – i.e., the ability to “round up” and deport persons without identifying paperwork.

The American Friends Service Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union will present these bills and then, with help from the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, they will talk about the effect on the immigrant communities.  Not to leave you without a resolution, the workshop will conclude with a discussion of actions you can take to address the bills and to protect the vilification of immigrants.

The workshop is sure to be a reminder of the tragedies faced during the influx of Italians during their immigration to the States nearer the turn of the 20th century.  Let us never forget the medical examiners of Ellis Island, nor their IQ tests.  Let us remember Sacco and Vanzetti, so that we do not let their fate succumb another migrant.  We are all human, after all.

The Building Change Film Festival will also be highlighting these issues in the films 9500 Liberty screening Saturday at 8:00 pm at CAPA and Immigrant Nation on Saturday at 4:30 pm at Point Park’s GRW Theater.