BY PAUL QUIÑONEZApril 13, 2015

“You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt.”
Exodus 22:20

Local student, Martin Martinez, speaks to a representative from Congresswoman McMorris Rodger's office.

Local student, Martin Martinez, speaks to a representative from Congresswoman McMorris Rodger’s office.

Catholic social teaching has long recognized the right, and duty, of states to secure their own borders and enforce the law for the sake of the common good. At the same time, Catholic values have sought to accommodate the right of people to migrate. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church has tried to strike a balance between the rights of States to enforce their immigration laws while ensuring that the human dignity of migrants is respected. After all, the Church teaches that immigrants should be welcomed by host nations—especially those that are financially blessed. At a time in which our nation is led by a party which claims to espouse Christian values, and whose lower chamber is led by a Jesuit educated, practicing Roman Catholic, it is shocking to hear the dehumanizing, fear-mongering, and anti-immigrant rhetoric with which Congress has sought to legislate our communities.

In an attempt to point out the contradiction between the values that our elected officials claim to possess and their actual voting record, students from various Spokane universities met with a representative from Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers’ office to discuss her stance on immigration reform. Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers represents a rural region of Washington State in whose economy the agricultural sector plays a significant role. As is common in many parts of the nation, immigrants make up a great amount of the laborers who allow for the agricultural sector, and our local economy, to thrive. As Americans, we cannot exploit humans for our benefit and then deport them when they are no longer valuable to us. This is not a value which any of us should espouse and we should not act in such hypocritical ways. Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers claims to understand this and supports a piece-by-piece approach to immigration reform.

Judging by the congresswoman’s actions, however, it would seem like this is nothing but a worn-out talking point. After all, the congresswoman is part of the House leadership which has continually refused to bring immigration reform, in any shape or form, to the floor for a vote. It is a  House which has ignored the wishes of millions of Americans, religious leaders, and business leaders simply to show that it could get its way if it wanted to. Time and time again Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers has voted to defund DACA and Homeland Security, while claiming to be on the side of DREAMers. How can someone claim to support DREAMers at the same time she is leading her party’s attacks on the only legal protection which has been made available to them?

This was precisely the point that various students from the Spokane region were trying to communicate to the congresswoman in a recent non-violent and peaceful action. While the congresswoman was not at the office (she was participating in an event across town), the group was able to meet with a member of her staff and communicate their opinions. Yet, someone in the congresswoman’s office decided to call the police on the students. To the students present, this action sent a strong message: it told them that their opinion as constituents was not appreciated and their constitutional right to demonstrate said opinion to their elected officials was violated by someone who claims to defend the constitution. As Whitworth University senior Cinthia Vazquez said, “I wish that the congresswoman would see that politics are personal. Her decisions affect the lives of real people. It’s not a political game that can continue for much longer.” Indeed, it is time for our leaders to do what they were elected to do and tackle this complex issue by passing comprehensive immigration reform. It is time for them to live up to their promises and values, without hiding behind excuses of a president in which they cannot place their trust. That is our message to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and the rest of Congress—will it finally be heard?

Paul Quiñonez

Paul Quiñonez is a political science and economics double major at Gonzaga University. Originally from Minatitlan, Colima, Mexico Paul was raised in Pasco, Washington and has always been interested in advocating for and serving the immigrant community. Throughout his high school years Paul did so by volunteering as an interpreter at the Franklin County Courthouse during elections, using his bilingual skills in assisting AARP as an interpreter during tax season, and by being a teacher’s assistant in an ESL classroom at Stevens Middle School.

Upon entering college Paul continued his efforts by meeting with elected officials in Olympia, Washington to advocate for the REAL Hope Act, a recently passed bill which granted undocumented students in Washington State eligibility for state financial aid. Additionally, Paul spent a semester in DC as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute intern in Senator Stabenow’s office to acquire a better knowledge of the legislative process and how he can best serve his community. While in DC, Paul continued his advocacy efforts and participated in a march from Georgetown University to the White House in support of immigration reform, amongst other things.

Following his experience in Washington, DC Paul was accepted to the DHS Summer Scholars Academy in El Paso, TX. Through this experience Paul was able to observe a community which is directly impacted by immigration (El Paso is a border city) and its surrounding issues. Thanks to being in a border city during the time of the unaccompanied minors border crisis, Paul was also able to visit immigration detention facilities and see for himself how the federal government was attempting to cope with the issue. Now that he is back at Gonzaga University, Paul hopes to continue his advocacy work and share the social justice movements taking place at GU as part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network Media Team.

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