Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jesuit Father Tom Reese Discusses the Catholic Approach to Immigration Reform at Georgetown/On Faith's Blog

Jesuit Father Tom Reese, Senior Fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, regularly contributes to the Georgetown/On Faith blog, a partnership between Georgetown University and Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive designed to provide knowledge, inform debate and promote greater dialogue and understanding across religious traditions.

In this week's blog post, Fr. Reese highlights discussions that took place at last night's Woodstock Forum "Honoring Human Dignity and the Common Good: A Catholic Approach to Immigration Reform". The forum was moderated by Jill Marie Gerschutz, migration policy director and outreach coordinator for the Jesuit Conference of the United States, who with Donald M. Kerwin, Jr.,vice president for programs at the Migration Policy Institute
, edited And You Welcomed Me: Migration and Catholic Social Thought

Here is an excerpt from Fr. Reese's latest post:
Octavio Gonzalez, a graduate of Georgetown University, would be picking corn and raising a few cattle in El Teul de Gonzalez, Mexico, if his father had not illegally trekked across the hills at the U.S.-Mexico border near San Ysidro, California, in 1969. 

Mr. Gonzalez never planned to stay permanently in the U.S., but he wanted something better for his children after he married a woman who had also crossed into the U.S. illegally after being turned back by a border guard who refused to let her cross even though she had a valid visa. 

"As much as they both wanted to stay with their families in Mexico, it was becoming clear to them that their aspirations for their children would not be possible living in Mexico," Octavio explained to a forum sponsored by the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University on Tuesday. "If they stayed to raise a family in Mexico, their children, like them, would go to school six months out of the year and work the fields on the ranch. We would certainly never get the opportunity to study through college."

The Gonzalez family story exemplifies that "A migrant is a person possessed by a dream, just like you and me," as Bishop Gerald Kicanas, vice president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, told a Georgetown audience last month. "They're trying to improve their lives, live their lives with some dignity, with some semblance of value and meaning."

Speaking at the same forum as Octavio Gonzalez, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick explained why the Catholic Church supports comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship. The church's teaching on immigration is based on the fact that "We are all brothers and sisters in God's one family," he said. Or as Pope Benedict XVI said in his latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate: "Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance."

Read more of Fr. Reese's post here.