BY ISN STAFF | February 22, 2017
On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, University of Scranton graduates William Canny, ’77, H’07, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Maggie Walsh, ‘12, current Scranton High School English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, discussed “The Future of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S.” at the university. Their discussion offered both insights into international challenges faced by refugees, as well as local manifestation of refugee issues witnessed in the Scranton community.
Canny addressed the current U.S. vetting process for refugees, describing it as “the best process for vetting any immigrant coming into the U.S.,” speaking to concerns surrounding purported lax refugee policy and U.S. safety and security. He went on to discuss the moral imperative to care for refugees, reminding attendees that “the Church’s teachings tell us that we need to take care of the poorest of the poor, those who are in need of a new life.”
Migration and Refugee Services is the largest non-governmental resettlement agency in the world, and Canny’s responsibilities there include policy formulation and communication, advocacy, education, refugee resettlement and specialized services for other vulnerable populations, among them human trafficking victims and unaccompanied minors. Prior to joining the Migration and Refugee Services in 2015, Canny had more than 25 years of experience working for the Catholic Church and refugees and migrants via his positions with Catholic Relief Services and the International Catholic Migration Commission.
Walsh drew from her experiences teaching refugee children at Scranton High School, describing children “asking for a chance for themselves and for their families. Give these students a chance and they will thrive, not only because they were given a chance but because they were given a choice.”
The lecture was organized by the University of Scranton’s In Solidarity with Syria committee, a coordinated advocacy effort involving university administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, and students to aid those most affected in the current immigration crisis through education and advocacy.
The In Solidarity with Syria committee also co-sponsored an interfaith prayer vigil in support of immigrants and refugees on February 18 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Scranton. Later in the semester, the committee will also host a refugee simulation on campus as part of a varied and engaging line-up of events throughout the academic year calling attention to the current global immigration crisis.
The university has partnered with Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton to facilitate a student initiated and coordinated tutoring program, directly engaging University of Scranton students with children of local refugee families to provide English language and academic support. The partnership also offers an opportunity for university faculty and staff members, through the Refugee Friendship Network Program, to pair with refugee families, serving as a resource, friend, and advocate through each family’s transition to the Scranton area.