Immigration Reform: Personal Perspectives – Part 1

by | Jul 19, 2016 | Formation, Reflections


Immigration reform in the United States is the topic of many conversations, especially so with the upcoming presidential elections this fall. Two articles recently published by the Global Sisters Report touch on this topic, one, an interview with Sr. Mary McCauley who is an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, and the other, a blog post by Sr. Tracy Kemme on her travels to visit the villages from which her parish’s Guatemalan students and parishioners came from. Both articles touch on the deeply personal encounters the sisters had with immigrants either in the United States, or people in their native countries who have not seen their immigrant relatives living in the United States for many years.

These articles are highlighted  in a two-part series; Look for part two next Tuesday, July 26.

Sr. Mary McCauley served in many different ministries before her assignment as a pastoral administrator of three parishes, including St. Bridget’s in Postville (population 2,200) in northeast Iowa. On May 12, 2008, a raid took place at the local Agriprocessors meatpacking plant and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested and deported 389 undocumented workers from Mexico and Guatemala. Sr. Mary describes her experience at St. Bridget’s on the day of the raid:

“The images and emotions are very strong in my mind and heart today. May 12, 2008, was the most challenging, exhausting and transformative day of my life.

Significant images: faces of desperate children searching for their parents. Faces of men and women with utter fright and anguish, wondering what happened to their arrested family members.

Another vivid memory: mothers who had been arrested and released with GPS devices on their ankles. At a march in Waterloo a few days later, they carried signs: ‘We are not criminals. We came to work. We came to feed our families. We are mothers.’ That image of those women standing up for their rights will stay with me forever. They are the Rosa Parkses of our broken immigration system.

Innumerable people from all over came to offer assistance. They brought food, clothing, games for the children. Such an outpouring of concern.

Family members of those who had been arrested would return to Mexico or Guatemala. They boarded a bus at St. Bridget’s to go to Chicago O’Hare Airport. As the buses were loading, I hugged people and said goodbye. I remember saying to one man, ‘I am so sorry that you have to leave, sorry for what happened to you at Agriprocessors, sorry for the way our country has treated you.’ He looked at me and said, ‘It’s OK. I understand.’

That was a transformative moment. Because I don’t think it’s OK. I don’t understand.”

Advocating for Justice

Advocating for justice for our immigrants is no easy task, however, Sr. Mary describes what is needed to make a positive impact on our immigration issue [bold/italic is mine]:

We want comprehensive immigration reform. We don’t want legal status without a path to citizenship. We emphasize family unity. I am concerned about detention centers and raids that break up families. Appropriate working conditions and labor rights are a concern. Another serious problem: We do not have enough lawyers. Immigrants need due process and legal counsel.

We need to look seriously at root causes. Why are people coming? I’m concerned about unaccompanied children coming as asylum-seekers from Central America because of gang violence. We should not be sending them back to situations where they could die.

We do need secure borders, but a border that respects the human dignity. Following Pope Francis: Let’s build bridges, not walls.

Another statement of Mary Frances Clarke (foundress of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary): ‘Help, O Lord, poor Ireland, my dear country and bless dear America for her great charity for all.’ My prayer today is that America might once again be known for her great charity for all. We have to open our hearts much wider.”

Source: Global Sisters Report, Q & A with Sr. Mary McCauley, an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, by Rhonda Miska

For more resources on Immigration, click here.

Remember to check back next Tuesday, July 26 for Part 2!



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