By: Roxane Ramos
Bishops on a Mission for Migrants
Following their April visit to the Arizona–Mexico border, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration took to the road once more to draw attention to immigration issues and the struggles facing undocumented migrants. This time the destination was Capitol Hill. On May 29, six bishops celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. In his homily, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami called for greater understanding and a change in law, saying “[the migrants] only ask for the opportunity to become legal and have a chance for citizenship—to come out of the shadows where they live in fear of a knock on their door in the dead of night or an immigration raid to their work place.”
In addition to a press conference, the bishops were also scheduled to visit with several House representatives, including House Speaker John Boehner. Boehner has refused to bring an immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June 2013 to a vote, claiming that there is not enough Republican support to pass it. Advocates disagree, and a major impetus behind the bishops’ trip was to urge legislators to move on this issue. Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, highlighted the “moral urgency” of the situation, saying, “We need debate and vote on [immigration reform]. Inaction is equivalent to supporting the status quo, which Americans agree needs to be changed.”
Call to Action: Check out the Justice for Immigrants web site, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for ways in which you can support more humane immigration reform and spur U.S. lawmakers to action.
Children Detained at the Border
With the recent entry of unaccompanied children at the Texas border, the KBI is staying informed about this troubling situation and investigating ways to be of service. Father Sean has attended meetings with various government agencies as well as church and advocacy groups, and toured the Nogales, AZ Border Patrol Station where some of the more than 1,000 children were transferred. He wrote in a June 12 KBI Special Alert that “most are teenagers but there are a smaller number of younger children. Based on the way they looked and on the facilities that had been set up, their physical needs seem to be met. Their psychological and spiritual well-being is less clear to me, due to the inability to speak and interact with the young people.”
The children are mostly from Central America, and have fled escalating gang violence and severe economic conditions in their native lands, crossing the length of Mexico to reunite with their families in the United States. The authorities have described the situation as a humanitarian crisis, and it is not likely to stop in the near future.
While the U.S. Border Patrol appears to be treating the children as well as possible, they are not equipped for the nature or magnitude of this task, and “warehousing” children while lawmakers consider how to address the problem has created numerous concerns, from the purely physical (can the children’s needs continue to be met?) to the psychological (how will ongoing separation from their families and lengthy detention affect these kids?).
Since the beginning of the year, more than 52,000 undocumented and unaccompanied children have entered the U.S. Numerous protests have called for a range of measures—better care for the children, reunification with their families, and more generally, immigration reform. At this writing, no solutions are forthcoming, though President Obama has issued a warning to the parents of these brave, vulnerable children: “Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”
The KBI will continue to monitor this crisis and keep you informed of the latest news. As Father Sean indicated in the KBI’s Special Alert, “The KBI remains very committed to collaborating with other churches and organizations to address the needs of these children. We will keep urging the federal government to work with us to provide direction and focus, so we offer assistance in the most effective way possible.”
Call to Action: Read more about the humanitarian crisis at the border at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) web site.
The KBI Receives an Honorary Doctorate from Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University acknowledged the comprehensive work of the Kino Border Initiative “to help make humane, just, workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico a reality” with an Honorary Doctorate of Pastoral Ministry at their commencement ceremonies on June 14. Father Sean Carroll, the KBI’s executive director and one of its co-founders, received the degree on behalf of the KBI. In attendance, were several KBI board members—Board Chair Jane Lacovara and her husband Phil; past Chair Luis Fernando Parra, Esq., his wife Cecy, and their children Alan Fernando and Cristabela; Mark Potter and his wife Dr. Kristen Heyer, a theology professor at Santa Clara; and Lucy Howell and husband Steve. KBI staff members West Cosgrove, director of education, and Marla Conrad, migrant advocate/volunteer coordinator, were also in attendance as were Father Sean’s mother, Cathy Carroll and her husband Carl Walls. Dr. Kristin Heyer read the proclamation of the honorary doctorate at the commencement ceremony.
Recognizing that the KBI and Santa Clara University “share and uphold the same traditions, beliefs, and outlooks regarding social justice and concern for the poor and marginalized,” the degree honors five years of crucial and consistent work to “promote border and immigration policies that affirm the dignity of the human person and a spirit of bi-national solidarity.” The KBI does this through an extensive combination of programs—direct humanitarian assistance, education, and research and advocacy.
Santa Clara University is a Jesuit, Catholic institution of more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and is committed to faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. Located in Silicon Valley, it offers undergraduate degrees in arts and sciences, business and engineering, as well as masters, Ph.D., and law degrees. Founded in 1851, Santa Clara is California’s oldest institution of higher learning and is distinguished nationally by the fourth-highest graduation rate among all U.S. masters universities.
Call to Action: To learn more about the Kino Border Initiative’s programming and its work toward a more humane immigration policy, see: http://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/ To learn more about Santa Clara University, its mission, and academic programs, see: http://www.scu.edu/