Religion and immigration came together last week at a talk cohosted by the Latinx student groups Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán de Yale and La Casa Cultural about the Catholic Church and its role in contemporary immigration issues.
The event, titled “The Catholic Perspective on Immigration,” took place Feb. 28 at La Casa Cultural on 301 Crown St. as part of MEChA’s Immigrant Rights Week. The student organizers invited Sister Mary Ellen Burns LAW ’89, the director of Apostle Immigrant Services, an organization that provides legal services to immigrants in the Elm City, to discuss the Vatican’s reaction and response to the recent changes to immigration policy implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration. Participants discussed Pope Francis, who reminded the church and its followers of their obligations to live a life of compassion in his message at the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
“The Church without frontiers, mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable,” Pope Francis said in his message.
Burns, who has nearly two decades of experience as a legal services lawyer, founded Apostle Immigrant Services in 2008. The organization helps immigrants receive work authorization, secure their legal status as residents, obtain citizenship and reunite their families.
Julian Assele ’20, a Catholic student who did not attend the event, said he agrees with the pope on immigration for both moral and economic reasons. Assele said fear-based narratives often determine how immigrants are portrayed to American citizens. Narratives of immigrants taking jobs away from Americans and being too lazy for work contradict each other, he said, adding that the two lack logical and economic basis.
“[It’s an] epidemic of nationwide cognitive dissonance,” he said.
In the pope’s 2015 address, he said Catholics around the world must respond to the globalization of migrants with “charity and cooperation” to better the lives of these immigrants. He added that the Catholic Church and the broader international community should make a greater effort to improve the conditions in other countries that lead people to flee their homes.
Larissa Martinez ’20, an undocumented student, said most immigrants come to United States for a chance at a better life, adding that proponents of the Muslim ban and Mexican border wall should speak with immigrants to see that immigrants are not as different as other people might think.
“Citizen or immigrant, we all want the same thing: the American dream,” she said.