By: Rene Howard-Paez, Staff Reporter
Students, faculty, religious leaders and concerned neighbors were in attendance Tuesday, March 15 at Dominican University’s immigration forum.
The evening’s discussion addressed the statistical, legal, theological and ethical aspects of immigration, beginning with the question “Is dreaming illegal?,” which was also the title of the event.
The four-person, comprehensive panel, all of different backgrounds, was co-hosted by the Center for Global Peace through Commerce and the Siena Center.
Claire Noonan, the director of the Siena Center, provided opening remarks giving context to immigration and the university. “It is a deeply personal issue for all of us at Dominican University, where we pride ourselves in being a relationship-centered place, where the participation in the creation of a much just and humane world is a driving priority,” she said.
Mark Lopez opened the forum. Lopez is the associate director for the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington D.C. Lopez presented facts and numbers in his presentation all dealing with what Hispanics think of immigration and other pressing issues. One surprising fact was that the number of foreign-born Hispanics in the U.S has decreased significantly.
“Around 12.2% of the Hispanic population is foreign-born, and there has been a large decline in the illegal immigrant population since 2007,” Lopez said.
The decline in immigrants can be attributed to the economy Lopez went on to say. “The economy being bad and the construction industry going down as well as the housing industry were large reasons for immigrants to stop coming.”
In immigration, the legal system is not beneficial for immigrants attempting to become legalized, according to Rev. Craig Mousin, JD, who is the ombudsperson for DePaul University. He gave the legal perspective on immigration. Mousin mentioned, for example, that the legal system is set up with priority given to the reunification of families, but that the system also makes families wait way too long.
At the end of his presentation, Mousin provided a humorous, yet insightful look as to what the Gospel would look like if the immigration laws of today were in place then. For example when Moses fled Egypt and killed an Egyptian in the process, he would never have been allowed into the Promised Land because he would be considered an aggravated felon.
The perspective of Catholic Social Teaching on immigration was addressed by Elizabeth Collier, Assistant Professor of Business Ethics at Dominican University.
“The Church teaches that the human person precedes the state,” Collier said.
Her talk delved into what the church teaches on immigration, a steady stance of human justice and dignity. According to Collier, the state and its policies use a “utilitarian calculus,” and only worry about how they can benefit from immigrants. In contrast, the Catholic perspective does not aim to profit from benefits, but instead aims to live in communion, be converted by the relationship and build solidarity.
Elena Segura, the Director for Immigrant Affairs and Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago, believes that immigrants are at times dehumanized and that it leaves little room for progress.
“They are caged up in the buses sometimes and you can hardly talk to them,” Segura said.
Segura works with immigrants and has experienced personally what these immigrants are treated like, especially in the process of deportation.
Segura said that the Catholic Church is tirelessly addressing immigration and attempting to educate Catholics so that immigrants can have advocates and assistance, such as affordable legal representation.
The forum was inspiring and informative and left many with aspirations to help change the immigration climate.
As Sister Mary Ann Mueninghoff, OP, put it, “the panel was both sobering and inspiring.”