Faith teachings undergird efforts to advocate for immigrants
By Marijke Fakasiieiki
In a workshop on immigration at the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference, Sr. Pat Millen OSF outlined reasons to advocate for immigration from Catholic social and interfaith teachings.
She cited the Exodus, the flight to Egypt, the Sermon on the Mount and incarnation as migration. She said "the Torah tells us strangers and sojourners are to be treated as natives."
"The Bible shows that Jesus welcomed strangers. The Quran directs followers to do good to neighbors in need and wayfarers," she said.
"Why do people of color flee? Why do people from El Salvador or Honduras flee? They flee violence from gangs and environmental devastation," she said.
Pat said her Ukraine grandfather left the Ukraine to avoid being drafted into the Czar's army and to flee violence.
"Knowing why we or our ancestors left helps us understand why others leave," she said. "In the Exodus, people fled to escape slavery. Jesus' family fled to Egypt to escape persecution."
Pat said Catholic social teaching—the collected wisdom, teachings and writings of popes, councils and Catholic writers—includes seven themes: 1) life and dignity of the human person, 2) call to family, community and participation, 3) protection of human rights and fulfillment of responsibilities, 4) the preferential option for the poor, 5) the dignity of work and rights of workers, 6) solidarity and 7) care of creation.
"A country has the right to regulate its borders, but a country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy," Pat said.
She described the Kino Border Initiative, a Jesuit ministry promoting U.S.-Mexico border relations and immigration policies that affirm the dignity of people and bi-national solidarity. Leaders listen to stories from migrants who have crossed or plan to cross.
Sr. Pat shared information from the Catholic Advocacy Group Formation, an inter-parish group on immigration in the Spokane Diocese. It includes St. Aloysius Parish's social ministry advocacy committee and St. Ann's parish, which has worked in the Sanctuary Movement.
The group meets monthly to discuss advocacy updates and plan activities, connecting with national women religious. They also hold prayer services.
The committee connects with the Kino Border Initiative as they advocate for Governor Jay Inslee to dedicate part of the state's CARES funds for immigrant groups.
This resulted in COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, which has $40 million to assist Washington residents who can't access funds because of their immigration status.
Advocacy activities address family separation at the border, child migrants, ICE detention of migrants at Intermodal Center and South and Central American immigration.
Advocacy priorities include immigration as a fundamental faith issue and the ongoing need for advocacy in the new administration.
Federal priorities in 2021 include reunification of more than 600 children separated from parents at the border, restoration of U.S. refugee resettlement system, raising the refugee resettlement cap to 125,000 a year, permanent solutions for DACA recipients and comprehensive immigration reform.
For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March, 2021