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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

SIMI describes migrant experience

Members of the Scalabrini International Migration Institute (SIMI), based in Rome, visited the Hesburgh Library Wednesday to speak in a lecture entitled "Border Policy and the Migrant Experience." Father Claudio Holzer and Brother Gioacchino Campese, members of SIMI, were joined on stage by Allert Brown-Gort, associate director of the Institute for Latino Studies, which sponsored the event. SIMI is an international organization that studies the migration of people through multi-cultural and inter-religious methodology. Campese, who spent time working with the Casa Migrante in Tijuana, Mexico before coming to Chicago, spoke about his experiences and discussed future possibilities for immigration policy in the United States. Though the talks were not designed to debate policies taken by the United States or Mexico, references were made to President Bush's recent immigration reform proposal. Currently, the Bush plan is only an outline, but the evening's speakers agreed that reform to the current system is needed. Brown-Gort, who spoke after Campese, discussed the socio-economic effects of immigration on the United States and Mexico and the social justice that should be paid to immigrants from a Christian point of view. Brown-Gort referenced the 2002 pastoral letter entitled "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope," a joint publication of American and Mexican bishops that calls for comprehensive immigration reform, for his speech. Brown-Gort also accompanied his talk by showing slides of the metal double-barrier which functions as the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and of immigrants attempting to attain the "American Dream."Brown-Gort called the audience to take stock of why impoverished Mexicans would risk their lives and leave their families to cross the border. He pointed to American economic interests as a major motivation. "At the bottom of it, do we as the rich country, or as fairly well-off citizens ... should we be asking for our lifestyle to be subsidized?" Brown-Gort asked. Brown-Gort also drew attention to what he called the "supply-side" of immigration, adding that studying migration from a Christian point of view requires consciousness of all factors. He commented on the creation of everyday objects, which may have been made by illegal immigrants, who were employed by legitimate U.S. companies. "Do we hear about illegal business? Do we think of these as illegal businesses? Do we think of ourselves as illegal consumers?" he asked the audience.Holzer ended the presentation with a discussion of the role of the parish in caring for immigrants. Holzer works in a province of the SIMI called the Saint Charles Borromeo Province in Melrose Park, Ill., which is in the archdiocese of Chicago. The speech discussed characteristics of the immigrants as poor, uneducated and undocumented and the characteristics of the welcoming community. "There is not an ideal situation or approach as a church or as a society," he said. Holzer focused on the state of immigrants who are experiencing culture shock, illiteracy and the drastic change from a rural society to an urban U.S. city. These immigrants then go to a parish, which must strive to keep an open mind, he said. Some obstacles Holzer mentioned for integrating immigrants are still prevalent race tensions, even among immigrants and the power of the word "illegal" as a limiting force.Campese also contributed to a recently published compilation of articles on the topic of migration entitled "Migration, Religious Experience and Globalization." "Border Policy and the Migrant Experience" lecture was part of the one-credit course "Migration and Catholicism."