Town Hall Discussion on Immigration and Shifting Populations

April 3, 2014
By Jenny Li Fowler, HKS Communications

Harvard Kennedy School hosted a panel discussion in “the Immigrant City” on March 31 to examine immigration and shifting populations.

Archon Fung, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship, who participated in the discussion said, “the Ash Center is examining the present day challenges to American democracy, and a principal challenge is that of immigration and shifting populations. We thought that there was no better place for us to learn about this first hand than Lawrence, MA – a city built on the backs of immigrants and a place that is home to one of the highest percentages of foreign born residents in Massachusetts.”

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About 200 people attended the discussion, “Integrating Immigrant Communities into Civic and Political Life,” sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation in cooperation with Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera.

Raisa Carrasco Velez MC/MPA 2009, Lawrence Public Schools special assistant, was instrumental in connecting the Ash Center to local partners in Lawrence.

“As an HKS alum and former Ash Fellow, I am very pleased the Ash Center would bring so many of us together and help shine the light on our unique story,” said Carrasco Velez. “Lawrence, in spite of many challenges, continues to be a city of hope and resilience. The city greeted me and my family with open arms twenty five years ago, and I found support and great opportunities.”

“We took away a great deal from our discussion in Lawrence about how the city has worked to integrate constantly changing populations and how we might be able to apply those lessons learned elsewhere,” said Fung.

The panelists included Zoila Gomez, immigration lawyer; Eliana Martinez, Lawrence High School teacher who emigrated from the Dominican Republic as an 18-year-old; Asma Khalid, WBUR; Jessica Andors, executive director of Lawrence Community Works; and Sister Eileen Burns, Notre Dame Education Center in Lawrence.

WBUR’s Asma Khalid and Sr. Eileen Burns, Executive Director, Notre Dame Education Center–Lawrence discuss the importance of education as a tool to help integrate immigrant communities in Lawrence:

Sister Eileen Burns (Left), executive director, Notre Dame Education Center–Lawrence and WBUR’s Asma Khalid discuss the importance of education as a tool to help integrate immigrant communities in Lawrence, MA.


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