All Refugees and Immigrants at Risk: The Local Response

Tuesday, January 16, 2018




In today’s political and social climate, especially as it has evolved in the past year, the WIL Service Committee put together a meaningful panel discussion of advocacy for underserved women, immigrants, refugees, and especially those under Temporary Protected Status as well as undocumented individuals in the US, with a special focus on groups in Philadelphia.  The panel represented from the Mayor’s office, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia and more.

We Learned:

  • How Philadelphia’s long standing support of immigrants, refugees and undocumented individuals and the city of Philadelphia’s current policies support fair, constitutional protection of these groups

  • About grass roots support of immigrants and undocumented individuals specifically in reference to the New Sanctuary Movement

  • The organizational adjustment and legal challenges that are needed to deal with US policy maneuvers affecting HIAS clients


About the Speakers


Symbol Lai has been the Deputy Director, Office of Immigrant Affairs for the City of Philadelphia since the summer of 2017.   She graduated from Temple University with a BA in History and American Studies. She worked for the Legal Aid Society and as an Americorps Advocate before attending the University of Washington. There she received a PhD in History which documented the relationship between the implementation of agricultural and land reforms and Okinawa’s militarization during the US occupation after World War II.


Blanca Pacheco, a founding member of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, is originally from Ecuador and has lived in Philadelphia for over 16 years. She is a passionate community organizer and has been working with the immigrant community since 2006. In 2010 she was honored with the Bread and Roses Emerging Leader Award.


Philippe Weisz is the Managing Attorney for HIAS in Philadelphia. Mr. Weisz has been an advocate for immigrant rights for over 20 years. He started his career as a staff attorney with the American Friends Service Committee, Immigrant Rights Program in Newark, New Jersey. There, he represented detained asylum seekers and immigrants from Central America. As HIAS’s Managing Attorney, his duties not only include supervising its staff of attorneys and paralegals and handling his own caseload, but also include overseeing HIAS’s educational activities.


About the New Sanctuary Movement

The New Sanctuary (NSM) of Philadelphia, a 501(c)3 organization, builds community across faith, ethnicity, and class to end injustices against immigrants regardless of immigration status, express welcome for all, and ensure that values of dignity, justice, and hospitality are lived out in practice and upheld in policy.


The NSM works with immigrant groups to build the individual and collective capacity of the immigrant community and brings immigrant and ally communities together to work for change. There are over 30 participating churches and faith based organizations of all denominations that actively participate and support the New NSM in Philadelphia.


About HIAS

HIAS has been welcoming immigrants for 130 years. HIAS’s mission includes representation and legal counseling before immigration agencies and courts, a broad range of support services and advocacy and education related to immigrant issues and rights. In the past year, not only has HIAS needed to address changing US policies regarding documented individuals, but also addressed the needs of the DACA recipients and those with Temporary Protected Status.


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