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Panelists examine human costs of migration crisis

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WASHINGTON — Facing the challenge of the migration crisis will require voices and actions taken up in solidarity with migrants across the globe, said a speaker at a recent dialogue on immigration at Georgetown University.

According to statistics reported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, by the end of 2018, "70.8 million individuals have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations."

"These are unprecedented numbers, the largest in human history," said Maura Policelli, executive director of the Washington office of the University of Notre Dame's Keough School of Global Affairs.

She opened the dialogue on "The U.S. Response to the Global Migration Crisis: Human Costs, Moral Implications and Policy Choices." It was hosted by Georgetown's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and Notre Dame's Keough School, marking their first partnership.

In convening the dialogue, held on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, John Carr, director of Georgetown's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, remarked that to commemorate the anniversary, students had planted 3,000 small flags on campus to honor the lives lost in the terrorist attacks.

He recalled the horrific scene of the World Trade Center's twin towers collapsing that day but also the recent, equally unforgettable scene highlighting the current immigration crisis — the image of a father and young daughter drowned together in the Rio Grande.

The Catholic response to this crisis, Carr said, is guided by the biblical principles of welcoming the stranger and upholding the dignity of immigrants and refugees as children of God.

The four panelists participating in the dialogue were Denis McDonough, who served as the White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama; Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida and former member of the U.S. House; Aryah Somers Landsberger, a researcher on migration issues and advocate for immigrants and refugees; and Mizraim Belman Guerrero, a DACA recipient and a politics major at Georgetown University.

Guerrero, who is in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and is a member of the class of 2020, told how his family left their small town in Mexico when he was a young boy, seeking work and educational opportunities in the United States.

He described the harrowing journey made by him, his mother and older brother across the desert and then the Rio Grande in 2003 to join their father who had been working in the U.S. to support his family.

Guerrero described pressures family members face being in the country without documents.

He recalled the time his father was detained after a traffic violation and put in deportation proceedings, but after a lengthy legal battle was able to gain a work permit. When his grandmother died in Mexico, Guerrero said, their family could not return for her funeral, out of fear that they would not be allowed back in the United States.

"We often don't think about the real human cost of these situations," said Guerrero, who added he is inspired by the example of hard work and resiliency of his parents and other immigrants. As a student, he has been involved in immigration advocacy groups.

In 2014 when Obama visited Austin, Texas, where the Guerrero family lived, he and his brother spoke out about the fears of deportation faced by their family and other immigrants. The president met with them afterward.

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.



Bishop Burbidge's statement

His Holiness, Pope Francis, has chosen Sunday, September 29, for the observance of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees to draw attention to those who have been forced to leave their homes because of war, violence, famine, or lack of the essential economic means. Many migrants and refugees and their families come to our nation in the hope of finding a new and better life.  

Our Catholic faith challenges us to respond to the plight of our brothers and sisters by welcoming them in our midst. In our diocese, we strive to support them through the generous work of our parishes and our Catholic Charities Newcomer Services. By welcoming, training, equipping and integrating into our community migrants and refugees, we manifest our common human dignity and our need to be one as children of a loving God.  



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019