Christopher Kerr - Cleveland Diocese First Friday Club BY ISN STAFFJuly 16, 2013

Being a voice with the immigrant was the emphasis of Chris Kerr’s (ISN Executive Director) call for humane immigration reform when he addressed the Cleveland Catholic Diocese’s First Friday Club on July 11, 2013, at the City Club of Cleveland. The talk entitled, “A Voice with the Stranger: Ignatian Advocacy for Humane Immigration Reform,” emphasized three main points: the Gospel-call to walk with immigrants in our country, an overview of Ignatian advocacy defined by an international group of Jesuits, and point-by-point emphasis of ISN’s Ignatian Family Advocacy Month immigration talking points.

Kerr used numerous stories to emphasize the humanity of the immigration issue, including an encounter he had with a man named Hector, a migrant farm worker in Immokalee, Florida.  He noted that individuals like Hector, “come [to the U.S.] with the hopes of meeting the basic needs that we likely take for granted as guarantees in our lives – food, shelter, access to medical care, education, and they seek the same for their children and other family members.”

ISN’s talking points on humane immigration reform, which continue to be relevant in the immigration debate focus on the five points:

o Create a process for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship
o Keep families together
o Enact the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act
o Respect the rights of workers
o Protect those most vulnerable especially women and children

In describing the importance of the inclusion of the DREAM Act, Kerr highlighted the story of a young woman named Maria, a University of Detroit Mercy graduate, current Jesuit Volunteer Corps member, and  a speaker at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice on numerous occasions.  He emphasized the valuable contributions that young DREAMERS like Maria will make to our country if given greater access to higher education through legislation like the DREAM Act.

He also noted the continued support for undocumented students by Jesuit universities, citing two examples: Loyola University Chicago recently making headlines for being one of the first universities in the country to   publicly state that they will admit undocumented students to their medical school and a national research project initiated by a Fr. Rick Ryscavage, a Jesuit faculty member at Fairfield University on the experience of undocumented students in higher education that focused on Jesuit institutions.  A research briefing introducing the study also provided an opportunity in February 2013 for the presentation of a public letter signed by signed by 25 of the 28 Jesuit university presidents, which supported the research findings and included a commitment to “continue to support [undocumented] students as full members of [their] campus communities and of society at large, where their voices and personal narrative deserve to be acknowledged.”

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