Immigration Conference Inspires Sister
A reflection on the Migration Policy and Advocacy in 2013 and Beyond: New Challenges and New Opportunities conference held December 3-5 in Atlanta, Georgia…
For me, one of the most powerful presentations at this conference was by Rev. Daniel Groody, CSC, of the University of Notre Dame. He spoke about a theological effort to understand how migrants and migration give us a way of naming who WE ARE before God. He framed his talk around the Eucharist, encouraging us to move personally beyond “binary” concepts: legal/illegal; citizen/non-citizen, or alien. He went on to define the alien as the person who is so disconnected from God that he cannot see the migrant as Imago Dei.
The concerned parties, i.e. vigilante groups, ICE, political leadership, corporations, church leaders and advocates, all try to protect rights as they see them. Father Groody said what is needed is a new imagination–a new narrative about migration to promote a just ordering of society. Theology is crossing the human divide. “To cross over the life/death divide is to follow Christ.”
I share with you some thoughts that stay with me from the conference as a whole…
It is time to turn our attention to welcoming state policies. The Supreme Court has limited the most repressive of the recent state legislative attempts to control immigration. By striking down several provisions of the Arizona law; however, Georgia and Alabama have enacted laws after the Supreme Court’s action. There are provisions in those laws which were not addressed in the Arizona law. Thus there is a need to be vigilant in our own states to prevent more and different repressive measures.
A strong recommendation for advocates: read the “meat” of the Supreme Court decision (AZ v US). The language of the decision can help us to formulate our arguments and language for advocacy. Several provisions of the Arizona law were struck down because they have been pre-empted by federal law, but that can change if federal laws change. Regulation of immigration is a right of the federal government, not the states. The dysfunction of the immigration system and the reluctance of congress to step in essentially have left the field open for states to step in and try to put restrictions on immigration in their own areas.
We need to ask our legislators to re-examine the ways they have responded to immigrants and the regulation of immigration. We should focus on a “roadmap to citizenship,” not simply a way to provide legal status for those who are undocumented. We should not sanction a permanent underclass in this society.
We have to be specific about what elements of immigration reform we are hoping for. Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, suggests that we include these ideas in our concepts and advocacy for immigration reform:
- full citizenship
- fair treatment for workers
- fulfilled dreams
- family unity
- full and equal rights under the law.
Working with young people who could qualify under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a good way of affecting the future. We still need to push for the Dream Act. DACA is a short term, though renewable, opportunity for young people.
For more information on the Sisters of Mercy’s participation in this conference, see this news item.