Chicagoland participated in a Share the Journey Walk organized by the Cabrini Reteat Center.
~ by Nuri Vallbona, Global Sisters Report
The stories and images are powerful. Delivered into living rooms nightly, they capture the faces of crying children and parents, panicked immigrants fleeing violence and anxious students facing deportation. [Read more…]
By Chris Herlinger, Global Sisters Report
The United Nations has completed key stages of work on two compacts related to migration and refugees, winning cautious praise from migrant advocates and church officials.
“Even just the idea of international cooperation on the issue of migration was a victory. Now, it needs to be institutionalized,” Maryknoll Sr. Marvie Misolas, representative of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns at the U.N., said about the compact on migration, the U.N.’s first.
“Now we have a basis from which to work,” said Sr. Janet Kinney, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, New York, and the executive director of the Partnership for Global Justice, a U.N.-based advocacy group.
The global compacts are documents that are not legally binding but provide a framework for nations to work together to manage the current wave of migration, in which 68.5 million people worldwide have been displaced. The compacts stem from the 2016 New York Declaration, in which the United Nations concluded it had to deal with the increasing challenges of global migration.
U.N. members approved the final text of the migrant compact, “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” on July 13 after more than a year of meetings in New York. The compact is expected to be formally adopted at a Dec. 10-11 conference in Marrakech, Morocco.
Talks on the global compact on refugees concluded July 6 in Geneva, and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi will present a final version of that document when the U.N. General Assembly meets later this year. The compact is a supplement to the 1951 U.N. convention on refugees and a subsequent 1967 protocol.
Volker Türk, the U.N. refugee agency’s assistant high commissioner for protection, noted that the current refugee convention “focuses on rights of refugees and obligations of states, but it does not deal with international cooperation writ large. And that’s what the global compact seeks to address.”
UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery told GSR in an email that the global compact on refugees “is building upon and strengthening, not replacing, the existing international legal system for refugees — including the 1951 Refugee Convention and other human rights treaties and international humanitarian law.”
Rummery said the refugee compact seeks “to fill gaps in cooperation in the international response to refugees — this includes in having a more predictable and equitable system of responsibility sharing so host communities get the support they need and refugees can be better included in host communities.”
“It’s a blueprint,” Sr. Helen Saldanha, a member of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and an executive co-director of VIVAT International, a global human rights advocacy organization that works at the United Nations, said of the migration compact.
The end of negotiations over language of the migration compact “is the beginning of another process” in which U.N. member states examine more fully how they can implement what the documents call for, said Saldanha, a member of the NGO Committee on Migration, an advocacy coalition of nongovernmental organizations at the United Nations that includes religious congregations.
Sr. Helen Saldanha, a member of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and an executive co-director of VIVAT International, a global human rights advocacy organization that works at the United Nations (GSR photo / Chris Herlinger)
A particular focus of the refugee compact: to share more broadly among nations the work of welcoming refugees, Grandi said.
“There are more than 24 million refugees in the world today, with the vast majority hosted in low and middle-income countries close to the countries wracked by conflicts from which they fled,” he said. “The burdens are often borne by countries least resourced to shoulder them. The compact aims to share this responsibility more equitably.”
That focus comes as members of the European Union are debating changes in policy that would place less responsibility on so-called “first arrival” countries like Italy and Greece to host refugees fleeing from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
UNHCR headed up the talks in Geneva over the refugee compact. The talks on the migration compact at U.N. headquarters in New York included U.N. member states and advocates for migrants that included the Vatican and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, including Catholic sisters’ congregations.
Under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Vatican took a pro-migrant position in the talks, and Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, praised the migration compact as serving as an “international reference point for best practices and international cooperation in the global management of migration.”
Among the declarations contained in the migration compact: Migration “should never be an act of desperation. When it is, we must cooperate to respond to the needs of migrants in situations of vulnerability, and address the respective challenges.”
It added: “We must work together to create conditions that allow communities and individuals to live in safety and dignity in their own countries. We must save lives and keep migrants out of harm’s way. We must empower migrants to become full members of our societies, highlight their positive contributions, and promote inclusion and social cohesion.”
U.N. General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak, a Slovak diplomat, called the migration compact a “historic moment” and said, “It does not encourage migration, nor does it aim to stop it. It is not legally binding. It does not dictate. It will not impose. And it fully respects the sovereignty of states.”
But though U.N. member states drafted the final wording, the compact does not have universal approval. The United States pulled out of the migration compact talks in December, citing the need to protect its migration policies. And on July 18, the government of Hungary, which has taken a tough stance against admitting refugees and migrants in recent years, said it will not sign the accord and is “exiting the adoption process” of the compact.
Kinney said the tension between countries protecting their sovereignty and nongovernmental advocates pushing for more human rights protections is an ongoing dynamic at the United Nations.
“Even in this document, issues of national security and human rights are not always in balance,” Kinney said. “Is [the compact] 100 percent balanced? You can’t say that.”
Kinney and Misolas, also members of the NGO Committee on Migration, praised the two compacts generally. But they said the two documents have gaps, particularly on displacement caused by climate change, an issue that is likely to be the focus of increased attention in coming years at the United Nations.
Sr. Janet Kinney (left), a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, New York, and the executive director of the Partnership for Global Justice, a U.N-based advocacy group, and Maryknoll Sr. Marvie Misolas, the representative of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns at the U.N. (GSR photo / Chris Herlinger)
“We have to continue discussing these issues in the context of our current economic model and the process of environmental dislocation,” Misolas said. “When we destroy the environment, that creates economic disparity and that pushes people out.”
Misolas said the migration compact can be faulted for being a document that “still feels like it is more ‘pro-host’ countries than focused on [migrant] people. It’s still a tall order for countries to fulfill their responsibility to their people” in helping find jobs and helping create “sustainable economic development.”
Rummery said UNHCR believes the final draft of the refugee compact “effectively acknowledges and addresses the reality of increasing displacement in the contexts of disasters, environmental degradation and climate change, and provides the basis for measures to tackle the many challenges arising in this area.”
Misolas praised the Holy See for its work and said the migration compact credits the work of faith-based organizations. However, she said that even among congregations committed to the work of helping refugees and migrants, “we still need to reflect more as faith-based groups on our values on this issue of hospitality and welcome.”
[Chris Herlinger is GSR international correspondent. His email address is email@example.com.]
In March 2018, the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub [in Australia] experienced a surge in demand with a 100 per cent increase in the number of referrals for the month.
A higher than average number of referrals were also received in April and May.
Most of these referrals are for asylum seekers receiving basic support through the status resolution support services (SRSS) program while awaiting the outcome of their application for protection.
The reason for the increase? Changes to the SRSS program vulnerability criteria have been announced, which will result in withdrawal of the basic living allowance (89 per cent of Newstart), casework support, and trauma and torture counselling from anyone assessed as ‘job-ready’. Being job-ready is not the same as being able to find employment.
Many Australians are looking for work. When English is not your first language, you have had little or interrupted education, you have no employment history and only temporary work rights, you have serious barriers to employment success. Add to that the significant physical and mental health issues many asylum seekers suffer, and employment is unlikely.
How will they will pay their rent and feed themselves if they have no income?
We stand for compassionate treatment for asylum seekers.
Some of the migrant children under age 5 separated from their families by the government were reunited with loved ones [last week] with help from Catholic organizations.
About two dozen families in all were brought back together on that date with help from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities USA and a network of other agencies from around the country.
In all, the Catholic agencies will help reunite 55 families by mid-July and provide short-term care, such as food and shelter, said Bill Canny, executive director of MRS.
“Protection of families is a foundational element of Catholic social teaching and this moment calls on all people of goodwill to lend a hand to reunite these children with their parents,” said a joint statement issued the same day by MRS and Catholic Charities USA.
The children and families were earlier separated by a policy implemented by the Trump administration at the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking to deter illegal border crossings. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in May that people risking improper entry would be subject to having their children taken away, if caught.
The Catholic Church, along with much of the country, condemned the policy and has been advocating for the families’ reunification. After much public outcry and widespread condemnation of the family separation policy, President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 saying families would no longer be separated but may be detained together during the process of prosecution and deportation at the border.
The U.S. bishops have expressed concerns with that possibility, asking for alternatives to detention, but seemed intent on lessening the damage already done.
The families of children under 5 that the Catholic organizations helped were reunited at government facilities and then transferred into the care of Catholic Charities organizations around the country, as well as the Annunciation House in the El Paso, Texas/Juarez, Mexico, border region.
They will be assisted with follow-up care for two months as many will leave the facilities and head toward a destination with family or a sponsor somewhere in the U.S.
Canny said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Office of Refugee Resettlement reached out to the Catholic organizations, as well as the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in early July to help with the reunifications.
Immigrant children are released from detention in McAllen, Texas.”They know we are able to tap into a vast Catholic network across the country, which proves valuable for humanitarian and disaster response,” he said.
Global Sisters editor’s note: More than 68 million people had been displaced from their homes because of factors such as war, threats from gangs, natural disasters, and lack of economic opportunities at the end of 2017, the highest number of displaced since the aftermath of World War II. Of those, the United Nations considered 25.4 million to be refugees: people forced to leave their countries because of persecution, war or violence. At every stage [in their journey], Catholic women religious are doing what they can to help.
Toting a sheet of smiley-face stickers and a wagon filled with toys, 3-year-old Jocelyn was fearless. As she played in the living room, covering everyone she encountered with stickers, her mother, 18-year-old Andrea, occasionally paused from cooking to admire her handiwork. Meanwhile, 7-month-old Carlos demonstrated the crawling skills he had acquired that morning.
This happy family scene might not have been possible without Bethany House of Hospitality, a shelter in Chicago’s western suburbs, where Andrea, Jocelyn and Carlos (identified by pseudonyms for their protection) currently live. Andrea, who arrived in the United States from Guatemala when she was 17, is seeking asylum for her and her children.
The house, which is sponsored by 28 congregations of women religious and serves female asylum-seekers who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors but risked aging into adult detention, doesn’t usually shelter minors. But when the staff and board realized that on Andrea’s 18th birthday, the small family could be separated or, at best, subjected to poor conditions in family detention, they made an exception.
“Her need was so great and to think of separating her from those two little children, we all had to say, ‘We can’t say no to this,’ ” said Sr. Peggy Geraghty, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a Bethany House board member. “We couldn’t bear to split one family, let alone all the families that are being split now.”
Andrea is one of eight women currently staying at Bethany House. Fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries, they arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border and were initially put in children’s immigration detention — most of them in Chicago or Texas.
The house opened in October 2017 after Sr. Patricia Crowley of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago called a meeting of her contacts from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) Region 8 in Illinois to discuss how sisters could address immigration issues. It has already housed 17 women (including the current eight) and three children for periods ranging from a week to several months until they are able to support themselves or move in with relatives.
As religious congregations shrink and their members age, collaborative projects might be the future of religious life, Crowley and other board members suggested. With multiple congregations funding the operation and a board made up of eight sisters, Bethany House was able to rent a building with large common spaces and 10 bedrooms, and hire several staff people to manage the house and connect the young women to resources.
This model is one of the many ways that Catholic sisters around the country are supporting asylum-seekers — through services including legal aid, shelter and assistance adjusting to life in the United States.
Asylum-seekers benefit from such intensive support because they face multiple challenges in their efforts to thrive in the United States. Like other refugees, they arrive fleeing persecution and often suffering from trauma, then have to assimilate and support themselves in a new country.
Unlike refugees who are vetted in their home countries by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, asylum-seekers aren’t pre-approved to migrate and must navigate the court system to prove their right to remain while attempting to integrate and survive with little or no government assistance. (Learn more about the difference between a refugee and an asylum-seeker.)
One of the many rallies held around the nation on June 30th to protest the separation of families who have crossed the border into the United States occurred in the sleepy village of East Quogue, in the Town of Southampton, NY. Organized by MoveOn.org. during the weeks following the news of the separation of children from parents, this peaceful rally attracted a few hundred people and some local politicians.
On this hot Saturday afternoon attendees gathered in the park carrying home-made signs and flags, and wearing T-shirts and other symbols of disagreement with the separation of children from parents. Surprising to me was that virtually all those present were apparently Caucasian, and that many came as familes with young children. Clearly it was a teaching moment for the parents who could be overheard explaining what it means to protest something, and how to conduct themselves during the speeches being delivered by a victim of the policy, a town official running for re-elction, and the organizers.
The Hamptons rely heavily upon new immigrant laborers for the many restaurants and resorts, as well as for lawn care and construction, among many other work opportunities. Recently, deli’s serving ethnic food have sprung up, and churches are welcoming laborers with services in Spanish. Immigration and other needed services are being offered, as well. Sadly, housing is a major issue: many were found camping in the woods through the winter months.
It was moving to see the white villagers and, maybe vacationers, out in support of uniting families, but it was concening that the population most affected was absent. Were they all working to keep lawns manicured, meals prepared and served, and homes cleaned on this sweltering Saturday? Were they afraid to gather in public? Maybe it was a combination of these and other motives. I’m glad we were there to represent ourselves, US citizens who know that our nation is above the the current policies coming out of the White House, and to represent them, the victims of the hate being disseminated by some. ~ by Patricia Krasnausky, President and CEO, Cabirni Eldercare
In response to announcements regarding deploying the United States National Guard to the U.S./Mexico Border, the U.S. Catholic Bishops of the U.S./Mexico Border issued the following statement:
We are deeply concerned by the announcement that the National Guard will be deployed on the U.S./Mexico Border. The continued militarization of the U.S./Mexico Border distorts the reality of life on the border; this is not a war zone but instead is comprised of many peaceful and law-abiding communities that are also generous in their response to human suffering. We recognize the right of nations to control and secure their borders; we also recognize the need of nations to respect the rule of law. Current law in the United States rightly provides that those arriving to our country fleeing persecution are entitled to due-process as their claims are reviewed. Seeking refuge from persecution and violence in search of a peaceful life for oneself and one’s family is not a crime. Our faith calls us to respond with compassion to those who suffer, and to live in a spirit of solidarity with all human beings. We remain hopeful that our local, state and federal officials will work collaboratively and prudently in the implementation of this deployment, ensuring that the presence of the National Guard is measured and not disruptive to community life. We are also deeply concerned that at this time divisive rhetoric often promotes the dehumanization of immigrants, as if all were threats and criminals. We urge Catholics and people of good will to look past the dehumanizing rhetoric regarding immigrants and remember that they are a vulnerable population, our neighbors, and our sisters and brothers in Christ. ~ United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, Archdiocese of San Antonio
Bishop Daniel E. Flores, Diocese of Brownsville
Bishop Michael J. Sis, Diocese of San Angelo
Bishop James Tamayo, Diocese of Laredo
Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Diocese of El Paso
Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, Diocese of Tucson
Bishop Robert W. McElroy, Diocese of San Diego
Bishop Oscar Cantú, Diocese of Las Cruses
This week, the courageous and articulate students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida returned to class. They are now much different young people than they were only two weeks ago. Their outrage continues. Their advocacy for changes in gun laws continues. Yet, they also seek a return to normalcy, to be teenagers, once again.
But, what their activism has brought about in the two weeks since violence struck their school and forever changed their lives, is nothing short of remarkable.
Cardinal Cupich of Chicago yesterday said, “the nation’s young people are “shaming the adult world into action” on gun violence. Their voices are a wake-up call that should have been heard years ago.”
“The time for words is over, our children are telling us. What is now required is action. It is now up to those we elect to serve the common good to act to stop the rampant gun violence that has turned our schools, churches, theatres and streets into places of slaughter.”
“Our elected officials…must begin the process of walking away from the moral compromises that doom our society to inaction,” he said. ~ excerpts from National Catholic Reporter
Making an Impact on Corporations
Yesterday, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc., one of the largest retailers of its kind in the United States, is taking new steps to curtail the sale of firearms, including ending assault-style rifles and banning the sale of guns to people younger than 21, the company announced.
“Based on what’s happened and looking at those kids and those parents, it move us all unimaginably,” company Chairman and CEO Edward Stack said yesterday on “Good Morning America,” referring to the shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“To think about the loss and the grief that those kids and those parents had, we said, ‘We need to do something,’” Stack, whose father, Dick, started the business 70 years ago, explained. “And we’re taking these guns out of all our stores permanently.”
When asked whether there is a chance the company will reverse its position on the newly announced ban, Stack replied, “Never. We’ve just decided that based on what’s happened with these guns, we don’t want to be a part of this story and we’ve eliminated these guns permanently.”
Prepared for the Backlash
In addition to the steps Dick’s has taken to improve gun safety and mitigate the harm associated with gun products, more than a dozen companies, ranging from hotel operators to insurance providers, have announced plans to stop offering discounts and cost-saving programs for members of the NRA in light of the Florida shooting.
Students who survived the attack are lobbying for tougher gun laws, and many have demanded companies stop doing business with the NRA.
Discussing the possible repercussions for Dick’s, Stack pointed to the courage of those students, many of whom are responsible for mobilizing and organizing gun control rallies, marches and social media-inspired boycotts.
“When we take a look at what those kids and the parents and the heroes in the school, what they did, our view was if the kids can be brave enough to organize like this, we can be brave enough to take these [assault style weapons] out of here, he said of the guns. “Not everyone will be happy [with our corporate decision].”
~ ABC News
Corporations Pulling Their Ties to the NRA
As of today, the following corporations have altered their business practices and/or corporate relationship or business practices with the National Rifle Association (NRS) as a result
of the Parkland, Florida mass shooting.
Alamo-Enterprise-National Car Rental Group – ending discount programs for NRA members
Allied Van Lines – discontinued their affiliation with NRA.
AVIS – Budget Car Rental Group – ending discount programs for NRA members
Chubb Insurance – discontinuing NRA special programs
Delta Airlines – no more discounted travel for NRA members. Asked for their name to be removed from the NRA website.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. – will no longer sell assault rifles/ raised age for gun buyers to 21
First National Bank of Omaha – discontinued special rates and discounts for NRA members
Met Life Insurance – ending discount program for NRA members
North American Van Lines – no longer will have an affiliation with NRA.
Simply-Safe – discontinuing their existing relationship with the NRA.
Starkey Hearing Technologies – ending discount rates for NRA members
Symantec Cyber Security – ending discounts for NRA members
True Car – ending its car buying service relationship with NRA members
United Airlines – no more discounted travel rates for NRA members
Walmart – will no longer sell assault rifles/raised age for gun buyers to 21
by Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
Being afraid and concerned about the impact of migration is not a sin, Pope Francis said, but it is a sin to let those fears lead to a refusal to help people in need.
“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” the Pope said on January 14th, celebrating Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
While fear is a natural human reaction, he said, “the sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”
According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth. The number includes 26 million refugees and asylum seekers, who were forced to flee their homelands because of war or persecution.
“His invitation ‘Come and see!’ is addressed today to all of us, to local communities and to new arrivals,” the Pope said. “It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her.”
For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries. “It even includes understanding their fears and apprehensions for the future,” he added.
For people in the host countries, he said, it means welcoming newcomers, opening oneself “without prejudices to their rich diversity,” understanding their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities and recognizing their potential.
‘In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?” Pope Francis asked.
“It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences,” the pope said. That is one reason why “we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves.”
People in host countries may be afraid that newcomers “will disturb the established order (or) will ‘steal’ something they have long labored to build up,” he said. And the newcomers have their own fears “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure.”
Both set of fears, the pope said, “are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view.”
Sin, he said, enters the equation only when people refuse to try to understand, to welcome, to see Jesus present in the other, especially “the poor, the rejected, the refugee, the asylum seeker.”
~ Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service