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Justice Friday examines migration

| Monday, December 5, 2016

In this week’s installment of Justice Friday, Saint Mary’s first year Annie Maguire and sophomore Krystal Harris presented on the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) campaign called “I am Migration.”

Maguire and Harris are both CRS ambassadors, meaning they work to inspire and mobilize students to achieve the mission of CRS and to create global solidarity on campus. The CRS mission encompasses faith, action and results.

The goal of the “I am Migration” campaign is to educate students about what migration is and to encourage them to take action by supporting immigrants and refugees both locally and nationally.

Beginning the presentation, Maguire clarified the difference between a migrant and a refugee.

“Many times, we hear the terms ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’ used interchangeably, but there is a significant difference when it comes to legal proceedings,” she said. “Refugees are protected under international law. They should not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are under threat and are legally allowed to take refuge and asylum in another place.”

According to a video from CRS University (a CRS outreach program to partner with universities and students across the country) included in the presentation, the refugee crisis is currently the worst in human history due to conflict and persecution. Refugees will be displaced for an average of 17 years. There are 65 million refugees and displaced people worldwide.

“In 2013, the number of international migrants worldwide reached 232 million up from 175 million in 2000 and 154 million in 1990,” Maguire said. “At the end of 2014, 38 million people around the world had been forced to flee their homes by conflict and violence.”

Maguire also clarified what it means for someone to be native or indigenous to a certain area.

“Native or indigenous means originating in and characteristic of a particular region or county,” Maguire said. “We all have stories. As a history of people, we always move.”

Harris and Maguire opened the discussion by asking students to share their own family migration stories.

Saint Mary’s junior Denisse Mendez said her family originated in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

“I was born in Mexico and I came here when I was three years old,” Mendez said. “My dad came to the U.S. first thinking it had better economic opportunities. Eventually my mom said ‘I can’t take it anymore, we have to reunite our family,’ so then we came to Warsaw, Indiana.”

Senior Elizabeth Kochniarczyk said although her immediate family doesn’t have a migration story, her grandparents and great grandparents immigrated to the U.S.

“My family is from all over,” she said. “I’m Polish, Irish, Native American and Native Australian.”

Justice Education Club president Caylin McCallick said she enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories.

“It was nice to see the diversity even within a room of people,” McCallick said.

Harris said Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross are all the results of migration.

“All three schools were founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross founded in the 19th century by Fr. Basil Moreau,” she said. “He migrated to the United States from Le Mans, France.”

Sam Centellas, who for the past three years has been an active member of the South Bend youth and Latino community center, La Casa de Amistad, also shared his migration story.

Centellas is originally from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. His mother, who is from Michigan, went to Bolivia to be a missionary where she met his father who was a native of Bolivia. He said their decision to move came from the hyperinflation Bolivia was experiencing in 1984.

“My dad was a business man and my mom was a teacher,” he said. “People had to pay him in goods — a dozen eggs or a gallon of milk.”

Centellas said sharing stories is an imperative part of understand and connecting with those who are immigrants or refugees.

“It is important that we all share our stories and talk about taking action,” he said. “In this area unless you’re Potawatomi Indian, you’re not from this area.”

According to Centellas, the U.S. needs to change its language concerning immigrants.

“Just because someone isn’t a citizen doesn’t mean they’re undocumented,” Centellas said. “The only difference between me and an undocumented immigrant is that my dad was married to an American. It’s who their parents decided to fall in love with.”

“We’re trying to change that conversation piece from people being illegal to people being undocumented,” he said. “Those words matter.”

Centellas said promoting awareness concerning language can make a difference for people who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is the result of an Obama administration executive order, and shields certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors from deportation.

Additionally, Centellas said 13 to 14 percent of South Bend’s total population is Hispanic — approximately 18,000 people. Across the U.S. there are 750,000 DACA recipients — 1,200 in South Bend alone.

“I almost guarantee you if you’ve walked around in our community, you’ve met someone who is undocumented,” Centellas said. “Part of why we talk about action is that our community doesn’t want your pity. We need people to do tangible things, to come and help.”

Harris said students can show their solidarity with DACA students by spreading awareness for International Migrants day on Dec. 18, participating in the “Week of ‘Poder,’” contributing to the Lenten CRS Rice Bowls and volunteering at La Casa de Amistad. Students can also wear a safety pin to show their support and promote safe spaces for everyone in the community.

Maguire said taking action in these ways support the mission of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. According to Maguire, the mission is to “deepen our understanding and appreciation of distinct cultures, realities and persons so we live our Holy Cross charism and identity more fully.”

“This knowledge of the mission really speaks to who we are as Saint Mary’s students,” she said. “We encourage you to be an activist, an advocate and an ally.”

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