One hundred years ago, it seemed that immigration to the United States would be a thing of the past. Congress had already forbidden most migration from Asia. In 1921 it began restricting migration from Europe. However, in 1921, the United States Catholic hierarchy organized within the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) its Bureau of Immigration. Since 2001, that organization has been known as Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), which is now a division of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The earliest records of the NCWC Bureau of Immigration’s main office in Washington, DC, and its busy port office in New York City, are located at the Center for Migration Studies of New York. What do these records of a century of action on behalf of immigrants have to tell us today?
On July 14, 2021, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) hosted a webinar and discussion on its report, The CRISIS Survey: The Catholic Church’s Work with Immigrants in the United States in a Period of Crisis.
The CRISIS Survey documents the reach, diversity, and productivity of Catholic institutions that work with immigrants and refugees during a pandemic that has particularly devastated their communities and an administration whose policies and rhetoric made their work far more difficult. At a time of rampant “Catholic decline” narratives, the survey also documents the reach, vitality, and relevance of Catholic immigrant-serving institutions. It identifies the obstacles encountered by immigrants in accessing Catholic programs and ministries – both organizational (funding, staffing, and siting) and exogenous (federal policies, the pandemic, and community opposition). It underscores the threat posed by US immigration policies to immigrants and to the work of Catholic institutions.
The northern border of Mexico is a space of reception and containment for migrant families and individuals, who find themselves in conditions of great precariousness and practically null resources. Few migrants have material resources or social connections in Tijuana. The Casa del Migrante offers support to those waiting to cross the border. This wait can be prolonged indefinitely due to asylum and border control policies, a reality exacerbated by COVID-19 and related policies.
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organization with a mission to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn, and determine their own future. In this episode of CMSOnAir, Joan Rosenhauer, the Executive Director of JRS-USA, shares how JRS is adapting its advocacy for a new administration and transforming its programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also shares stories about the “proactive, resilient, hopeful” refugees she has met through her work with JRS.
In this interview, Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, provides an update on the conditions facing refugees and forcibly displaced persons throughout the world. He also shares findings from the recent CMS and Refugee Council USA report on refugee resettlement and he reflects on the connection between refugees, the Christmas story, and Catholic Social Teaching.
The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) conducted an extensive literature review and compiled the following resources and recent research on Catholic and faith-based work with immigrant communities. These resources cover the work of a wide array of institutions, including parishes, elementary schools, colleges and universities, charities, health issues, and congregations. This compilation also presents recent literature on the impact of immigrants on Catholic faith communities, advocacy by Catholic institutions, ethical issues, resources on working with immigrants, and other issues.
Dominican University, a private Catholic university located in River Forest, Illinois, has been operating since 1901 with an eye toward educating poor and marginalized students, including immigrant students, in the Midwest. Founded by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters in Wisconsin and later moved to Illinois, the school has an enrollment of about 3,000 students—a small college—but its influence reaches far beyond its campus 10 miles west of downtown Chicago.
Dominican University is unique among Catholic colleges for its commitment to immigrants. About 10 percent of the students at Dominican University are undocumented or have temporary legal status, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. This episode features an interview with Donna Carroll, president of Dominican University. She reflects on the challenges facing undocumented college students, including: lack of federal financial aid funding, the difficulty of career planning, and integrating into campus life. She also talks about the leadership of undocumented and “DACAmented” students and why the university adopted a Sanctuary Campus Covenant in 2017. Carroll describes the university’s efforts to support immigrant students during the “triple pandemics” of COVID-19, racism, and economic injustice — all of which have been exacerbated by restrictionist immigration policies.
Guadalupan Multicultural Services of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, otherwise known as “La Casita,” has provided a range of services to immigrants in northern Alabama for years.