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Immigration and the Church

Italy's immigration puts church teaching to test


VATICAN CITY -- The new flow of North African immigrants into Italy is putting the Vatican's teaching on immigration to the test.

More than 22,000 "boat people," many fleeing political unrest in Tunisia and Libya, have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa this year. The fighting in Libya has spurred more people to flee in recent days. Not all survive the trip: About 150 people drowned April 6 when a migrant boat capsized in rough seas.

Church leaders have underlined the broad right to emigrate, the specific rights of refugees and the responsibility of wealthier nations to welcome those in need. But their moral advocacy has provoked criticism and even derision among some Italians, who have suggested that the Vatican and other religious institutions be the first to open their doors to the wave of immigrants.

Thousands protest immigration measures in Ga.

ATLANTA -- Catholics were among the thousands of people who filled the streets surrounding the state Capitol to oppose legislation that targets illegal immigrants in Georgia.

Critics say the proposals will weaken the state's economy and lead to racial profiling.

The crowd railed against a measure in the state House and one in the Senate, holding signs with messages such as "The pilgrims were undocumented" and "No human being is illegal." Throughout the rally, the crowd chanted in Spanish: "Yes, we can!"

Nora Soto, 35, who is in school to learn hairdressing, spent March 24 on Washington Street in the shadow of the Capitol's gold dome. She worships at Our Lady of the Americas Mission in Lilburn.

"It's going to separate families. It's not fair. We came here to work and find a better life," said Soto, who has lived in the United States for 20 years.

Soto was one of a reported 6,000 people at the rally, which featured musicians, priests, political leaders and activists.

Bishop: Welcoming the stranger essential to faith


PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Diocese of Providence was built upon and prospered because of the faith, sacrifices and contributions of many ethnic communities, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin explained during a recent symposium on "Immigrants and Immigration in the 21st Century" at Brown University.

"Throughout its history in our nation and in this community, the church has welcomed and ministered to the historic immigration of these cultures," the bishop said.

"Despite the various languages, cultures and traditions of these very diverse immigrant groups, they were united by a common Christian faith and the desire to improve their lives and contribute to the well-being of their new home in the United States and the state of Rhode Island," he said in the symposium's keynote speech.

He emphasized that the Catholic Church has been concerned with the immigration question and responding to the needs of the immigrant community for a long time and added that the church has continued to be blessed and enriched by the immigrant community.

Migrant workers face dangers trying to find work


SALTILLO, Mexico -- Migrant worker Carlos Vasquez's journey through Mexico to find work in the United States has posed one danger after another.

The Honduran was been robbed and assaulted almost immediately after crossing into Mexico from Guatemala. Not long after he was hauled away at gunpoint from the railway line near the Mayan ruins at Palenque and taken to hotel room full of other kidnapped migrants in Villahermosa, Tabasco.

"I knew that I was going to die there," Vasquez recalled in late March, while resting at the Belen Inn of the Migrants shelter in Saltillo in northern Mexico.

"I thought, 'I have to escape.' Thanks to God, I had the opportunity," he said.

Vasquez bolted from the hotel when his guard stepped out for a cigarette.

Migrants such as Vasquez frequently fall into the hands of kidnappers as they transit Mexico on their way to the United States. The Mexican National Human Rights Commission reported 11,333 migrants were kidnapped over a six-month period in 2010 as organized criminal groups -- frequently abetted by corrupt cops and public officials -- abduct Central Americans and demand ransoms from the victims' relatives.

The Line in the Sand: Stories from the US/Mexico border


Following are video excerpts from The Line in the Sand, performed by members and staff of Most Holy Trinity Parish at the Celebration Publications conference, "A Light to the Nations," held Jan. 12-14, 2011 in San Antonio.

Scene 1:

Lucresia, a migrant mother of three from Mexico (played by Lupita Parra), embarks on a journey to the United States.

Scene 2:

Shana Machain plays the part of a No More Deaths volunteer, and shares her experience providing aid to migrants in the desert.

Scene 3:

Deacon Ken Moreland plays a Tucson medical examiner and Leo Guardado plays the part of an intern at the Mexican consulate. The two share their perspectives on identifying bodies found in the Arizona desert.

Congressional Immigration Advocates Push Obama


Rep. Luis Gutierrez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' immigration task force, announced March 31 a national campaign to hold President Obama accountable for promises he made on the campaign trail to reform the country's broken immigration system.

The campaign will include meetings and press events with local leaders and immigration advocates designed to put pressure on the administration. The first will be held on Saturday afternoon at the Instituto Biblico de Rhode Island in Providence; another will take place in Honolulu, Hawaii, the president's birthplace, in May.

Spearheaded by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a coalition of more than 200 immigration advocacy groups, the campaign will contrast clips of the promises Obama made on the campaign trail with two years of Congressional inaction, and spotlight the flesh-and-blood experiences of families torn apart by deportation.

For LA Archbishop Gomez, the issue is personal


A recent conference on “The Catholic Church and Immigration: Pastoral, Policy and Social Perspectives” provided a measure of the church’s seriousness about influencing the national debate and convincing the wider church, in Pope John Paul II’s words, that “no one is a stranger, and the church is not foreign to anyone, anywhere.” Among the presentations given March 21 was a speech in the evening by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the recently installed Archbishop of Los Angeles.

As Gomez notes (the full text is below) this is more than a theoretical issue for him. He is, first, an immigrant who still has family “on both sides of the border.” He also is “a proud citizen of the United States,” who understands the effects of globalization and who also has a high regard for the rule of law.

Impossible choices on America's border


"I was afraid that [the men traveling with me] would rape me, so I turned myself in."

Sofia* told me as we sat in a bus station in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. She was in tears. She had been caught by the Border Patrol entering the United States, randomly selected to be sent to federal court through Operation Streamline, given criminal charges, and deported back to Nogales.

Arizona, Utah debate immigration bills

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Senate voted down five immigration bills March 17 that proponents argued would crack down on illegal immigration even further than last year's S.B. 1070, which is still hung up by court challenges.

Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert March 15 signed a series of bills that have been described as a state equivalent of comprehensive immigration reform being sought at the national level. They step up enforcement, but also create a guest worker program that itself is likely to face court challenges.

Among the bills Arizona's legislators rejected were those that would have required hospitals to verify patients' legal status before admitting them for nonemergency care, required schools to collect data on immigration status and challenged the 14th Amendment's provision for birthright citizenship.

"All of the most problematic bills were defeated soundly on the Senate floor," said Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops in public policy matters.

Words Matter



Recent remarks by Kansas lawmaker Virgil Peck that undocumented immigrants should be shot from helicopters like feral hogs (characterized later as "just kidding") have reopened an important conversation about language and violence.

Fear-engendering politics, an old phenomenon that can now go viral on the Internet (Peck's remarks were reported in British newspapers), have always begun with pejorative and demeaning language. Think of all the ethnic slurs used to describe recent immigrants by earlier groups who claim superiority and fear encroachment. The label "illegal aliens" only tops the list of dehumanizing slurs used against immigrants from Mexico and Central America who have been coming to Kansas for decades to take back-breaking and dangerous jobs in agribusiness and meat packing industries.


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February 27- March 12, 2015


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