Archive for the ‘Migration and Immigration’ Category
U.S. Jesuit Provincials Urge Action in Letters to Congress and Obama Administration
In letters to President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress, the nine provincials of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in the United States are calling for comprehensive and humane immigration reform. More than 200 Jesuit communities, affiliated organizations, parishes and institutions are also lending their support to the provincials’ appeal.
Provincials are leaders in the Society of Jesus, an order of priests and brothers founded in 1540, responsible for colleges, middle schools and high schools as well as parishes and ministries that practice a faith that promotes justice. The provincials’ letters to Congress and the president urge that any proposed immigration reform include a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants as well as a legal employment structure protecting both migrants and U.S. workers, expedited family reunification and an end to policies that exacerbate family separation. The letters to Congress and the Obama Administration follow a similar appeal made by the provincials in 2011.
“The immigration debate provokes emotion on both sides of the aisle and we hope that our elected officials can rise above partisan politics,” said Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference. “Because of our commitment to educating the children of migrants in our schools, serving migrant communities in our parishes and offering men, women and children food and shelter on the border, we see firsthand the costs of current immigration laws. We’ve been calling for reform for many years, and we’ve never been closer. We pray that Congress considers the future of 11 million people hanging in the balance.”
The letter is the most recent action by the Jesuits supporting immigration reform. Earlier this year, the Jesuit Conference, the Kino Border Initiative and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA released a new study, “Documented Failures: The Consequences of Immigration Policy on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” highlighting excessive use of force, particularly dangerous deportation practices and abuse of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, testified at a congressional hearing on the report in April.
At a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), testified about a new report that’s shedding light on disturbing cases of family separation caused by current U.S. immigration policy.
The report, “Documented Failures: the Consequences of Immigration Policy on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” commissioned by the Jesuit Conference of the United States, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and KBI examines the experiences of migrant women, men and children deported from the United States to cities along Mexico’s northern border.
As the executive director of KBI, a bi-national humanitarian ministry of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Carroll works to aid deported migrants who pass through the KBI’s Aid Center and through Nazareth House, KBI’s shelter for migrant women and children.
At an ad hoc hearing convened by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, U.S. representative for Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, Fr. Carroll testified, “At the U.S./Mexico border, we are witnesses to what many don’t see or refuse to acknowledge: the physical, psychological and emotional destruction caused by current U.S. immigration policies in the lives of Mexican and Central American men, women and children looking to be reunited with their family members who live in the United States.
“This report, supported by our experience and service on the border, confirms the disastrous effects of current U.S. immigration policies on families, whether through the process of deportation or because of mixed immigration status. We can and must do better.”
Following the hearing, Fr. Carroll attended the Rally for Citizenship on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol with thousands of immigrants and activists seeking to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Fr. Carroll said that he thinks this is an incredibly hopeful time for immigration reform as “we are doing our best to ensure that this reform is just and humane.”
The Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a Jesuit, binational ministry in Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, was recently honored for its work with migrants. “There’s a lot of negative press about the U.S.-Mexico border, and I think these awards draw attention to positive programs and efforts that are happening on the border and to the people who live and work there,” says Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of KBI. “It’s a real affirmation of our staff and the work we’re doing.”
The KBI was one of four organizations to receive an award for binational cooperation and innovation along the U.S.-Mexico border from the Border Research Partnership, comprised of Arizona State University’s North American Center for Transborder Studies, the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center and Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana.
The awards program honors “success stories” in local and state collaboration between the United States and Mexico. KBI, the only religious work among those honored, was founded in 2009 by six organizations: the California Province of the Society of Jesus, the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, the Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Hermosillo.
Currently, there are four Jesuits working at KBI — two from the California Province and two from the Mexican Province. Jesuits are involved in other ways as well. For instance, this summer, a group of seven Jesuits spent five weeks traveling along the Migration Corridor in Central America to experience the route typically traveled by migrants seeking a better life in the United States. KBI was the last stop on their journey. Fr. Carroll says visiting KBI and meeting the migrants can be the most effective type of education.
“We can show photos, we can talk about it, we engage people on the issues — all that’s very helpful. At the same time, when a person or a group is able to dialogue with a group of migrants, that has the biggest impact,” says Fr. Carroll. “The group no longer has just a theoretical idea of the issue, but they think about it in terms of this person or this group of people that has been so affected by the current immigration policy, and I think it has a very significant impact.”
In addition to education and advocacy, KBI also focuses on humanitarian assistance. Since its founding the group has provided thousands of migrants food, shelter, first aid and pastoral support. From the beginning of the year to the end of July, KBI served nearly 36,000 meals to migrants. Last year KBI provided over 450 women and children temporary shelter, and KBI’s clinic treats about 12 to 15 people a day.
“It’s a great blessing for us to offer those services,” Fr. Carroll says. “Our work is very transformative for us individually and as an organization because we serve them and we hear their stories and accompany them at a very difficult time.”
This summer, seven Jesuits took part in a five-week excursion through the Migration Corridor, the Central American route typically traveled by those fleeing poverty and seeking opportunity in the United States.
“La Jornada,” or the Journey, began in Honduras and ended in Nogales, Ariz. Along the way, participants learned about the realities of the lives of migrant workers.
Matthew Kunkel, a Jesuit scholastic said, “When people make this journey, they’re desperate. They’re not doing it because they want to break the law. They’re doing it because they’re trying to survive.”
The group traveled by bus and stayed in shelters, visiting human rights organizations and parishes that assist migrants along the way.
“If the experience was extremely demanding for us, I can only imagine what it would be for the migrants themselves,” said Jesuit Father J. Alejandro Olayo-Méndez.
Jesuit Father Robert McChesney, interim director for the Hispanic Institute at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University (JST), recently spoke with Catholic San Francisco on how the rapid growth of Hispanics in the U.S. church is changing schools and seminaries.
Fr. McChesney said, “We have to prepare our students for the changing face of the church, and that means attention to the devotional life of the Mexicans and the Latins in general. There is much more of a devotional faith than many of our students are familiar with. It takes me back to the church of the ’50s. We have to prepare our students to be part of a more devotional church.”
One devotional he’s become familiar with is practicing posadas during Advent. “The Latino Catholics will process around the neighborhood knocking on the door. It goes back to no room at the inn. … I’m an Irish-American Caucasian, but I’ve had to learn that because it’s certainly the religious practice,” said Fr. McChesney, who is also director of the Intercultural Initiatives and the New Directions Sabbatical programs at the JST.
“I have been taken back to my youthful practice of devotion, if you will, because it’s a way of prayer I needed to cultivate to serve the Latin community because it’s so central to them,” he said.
Fr. McChesney also said Hispanic leaders are influencing the U.S. church. “I think the Hispanic bishops have had a huge impact on immigration reform,” he said.
To read more of the interview with Fr. McChesney, visit Catholic San Francisco.