Creating Communities of Welcome: What would You have us do? was the theme of the conference sponsored by Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants (SBI), a Chicago archdiocesan group of religious men and women whose mission is to educate and advocate for just immigration policies.
On September 21, 2019 people came from all corners of the Archdiocese to Catholic Theological Union (CTU) to hear the presenting panel: U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, Theologian Carmen M. Nanko-Fernandez and Attorney Irakere Picon
Carmen, associate professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry at CTU, spoke with the theme, “Enough is enough!” passionately expressing her concerns for the injustice of our immigration policies and the negative attitudes of so many Americans, including Christians, to immigrants entering and living in our country.
Irakere is Director of Legal Services for the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) whose goal is to provide a strong and effective voice for Illinois businesses in the national immigration conversation by supporting comprehensive, sensible immigration reform. Giving legal status to 11.4 million undocumented immigrants would increase their state and local tax contributions by $2.2 billion per year.
Rep. Schakowsky is a passionate advocate for immigration reform as well. Her recent tweet read, “My parents came to the US to build a better future. It is the honor of my life to serve my community here in Congress. I want to tell every immigrant in this country today: you are welcome here and you are a valued part of our country.”
After the panel, two young immigrants who have recently received their asylum status shared their stories. Vita, from Ghana, fled to Ecuador from an abusive forced marriage (at age 15). She had no choice but to come to the U.S. and ended up in adult detention. Two members from detention visitation ministry heard her story and became her sponsors. Now able to work, she is hoping to live independently, complete her education and eventually bring her son to the U.S. Abdi, who fled Somalia because of political persecution, told of his arduous, months long journey through the jungles of Central America. When he arrived in the U.S. ICE placed him in adult detention for 2½ years until lawyers were finally able to have him released. He was able to connect with Viator House (for recently released youth) where he is thriving and completing his high school education in a supportive environment.