USF president joins government leaders for immigration forum

USF President Arvid Johnson discusses the university’s stance on immigration reform at a forum last week while U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster look on.

USF President Arvid Johnson discusses the university’s stance on immigration reform at a forum last week while U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster look on.

USF President Arvid Johnson joined U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, and area leaders last week to discuss immigration reform in a forum hosted at St. Patrick’s Church in Joliet.

Durbin, who has worked for months with a group of eight senators to write a bill to ease immigration policies, called the forum with community and government leaders. Among other measures, the “Dream Act” would allow qualified immigrant students who were brought to the United States as children to earn legal status. The bill is presently waiting to be called for a vote in the House of Representatives.

Johnson was the first panelist invited to address the crowd regarding the university’s views on the issue.

“Our stance on immigration reform is two-fold and simple,” he said. “As the president of an institution of higher education and a former businessman, I am concerned about the existing and forecasted shortage of highly skilled workers in the United States. U.S. companies will need to compete globally for the best-educated, most talented, most innovative workers. To the extent that our country makes immigration difficult, whether for graduates of U.S. universities who would like to continue to stay in the United States to work, or for other skilled workers who wish to come to the United States, career opportunities in other countries will grow. As a result, in order to reach that talent, many U.S. companies are facing or will face the need to move their operations overseas to meet their workforce requirements. We need to open our doors to these skilled workers in order to maintain a strong, U.S. economy.”

Touching on the university’s concern for students, Johnson continued, “University of St. Francis is also a Catholic, Franciscan institution and as such, we are deeply concerned for the aspect of immigration reform that is getting the most public attention– that of undocumented workers and students. We believe that respect and compassion are key to this issue… that families should not be separated… that those who are brought here as children should not be penalized for actions for which they had no control.”

USF students Alejandro Campos and Elisabet Miramontes were in attendance with Eric Ruiz, USF associate director of Undergraduate Admissions and coordinator of multi-cultural initiatives.

When asked why he attended the forum, Campos, a sophomore, said, “I came to see what our congress is doing for the undocumented student population. I know many people who want to get an education but can’t. They are afraid if they try, they’ll get in trouble. I want to see if USF can help them come to school.”

The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing, health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit www.stfrancis.edu.