Jesuit Coalition Backs Immigration Reform
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 10:09
Georgetown joined more than 30 Jesuit institutions across the country this week in calling on the House of Representatives to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network, a Jesuit social justice organization, organized the “Fall Call,” in which Jesuit universities, parishes and high schools celebrated Masses and encouraged community members to contact members of Congress through letters and telephone calls.
“People want a bill that is balanced and that respects the rights and dignity of undocumented persons with a pathway to citizenship,” ISN Executive Director Christopher Kerr said. “It’s going to help folks realize this is an important issue for students, young people, people of faith and Catholics.”
In addition to encouraging Catholics around the country to pray for immigrants and refugees, ISN also sent 5,000 postcards to various Jesuit institutions. Georgetown’s Office of Mission and Ministry sponsored a table in Red Square on Wednesday where passersby signed postcards in support of immigration reform. In total, 177 postcards were collected, and the Office of Mission and Ministry will continue reaching out to community members to collect more signatures until Monday, when the batch of cards will be sent to Congress.
Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, said that the movement was aimed at several members of Congress who are alumni of Jesuit and Catholic schools.
“Our hope is to remind them that this legislation goes to the heart of what we are trying to teach at Catholic universities, which is the promotion of human dignity and respect for the person, mind, body and spirit,” O’Brien said.
In particular, O’Brien said that Georgetown strongly supports legal relief for undocumented students. In 2009, University President John J. DeGioia authored a letter to DREAM Act sponsor Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in support of the legislation, which would support naturalization of international students in the United States.
In addition to the table in Red Square, Georgetown also celebrated two Masses to promote campus prayer for the effort.
“As a Catholic community, we’re coming together in a very intentional and prayerful way to lift up this hope of immigration reform and sway hearts in Congress to have a more holistic approach in supporting human beings,” Assistant Director of Ignatian Programs and Retreats Colleen Kerrisk (COL ’10), who worked the Red Square table, said.
Kelly Eder (COL ’17), who signed a postcard at the table, said she was glad that Georgetown was participating in the immigration reform movement.
“People all deserve the same rights, no matter where they’re from,” Eder said. “I think with Georgetown’s focus on global issues, it is Georgetown’s responsibility to participate in this effort.”
Kerr similarly praised Georgetown’s role.
“Georgetown has been a tremendous voice that is grounded in human dignity,” Kerr said.
This week’s events are the latest step in the Catholic push for immigration reform. Over the summer, University President John J. DeGioia co-signed a letter to Congress with presidents from other Jesuit institutions across the country. Although the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration overhaul bill in June, the House has been undecided thus far, with five potential bills failing to make it to the House floor.
Georgetown University College Democrats President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) applauded Georgetown’s efforts.
“As a Democrat and as a Catholic, it was very encouraging for me to see that this is something that Georgetown University was prioritizing,” Tezel said.
Tezel added that the movement, although Catholic in nature, would reach all sectors of the U.S. population because of the universality of certain Catholic values.
“[The Church] offers a valuable theological perspective in what is too often a simple political debate between talking heads,” Tezel said.
Though it is not certain when the House will next take up immigration reform, Kerr was optimistic about the lobbying effort.
“There’s still a long way to go in terms of the dialogue that needs to happen in the House to find a compromise, but this is a key issue and legislators realize that the population is changing in our country,” Kerr said.