Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This past Thursday I attended a panel discussion on immigration. The panelists spoke about immigrant rights and the immigration issues as a whole. Interestingly, one of the panelists is from Casa de Maryland- one of the sites at which I volunteer. Because of my service there and my previous interest in immigration issues, I was familiar with most of what they were presenting but it was nonetheless interesting to be refreshed with the details. I have never quite understood those who want to build a wall along the border, or arrest every single illegal immigrant. The speakers at the panel cemented my conclusions. There were three speakers, one I missed because we got there late but the other two were lawyers. One woman spoke of the issue of crossing the border, and how impossible it is to do legally. For example, one must have their papers processing for six years before they find out if they’re granted the visa. The lawyer from Casa spoke about immigrant workers’ rights. She works primarily with day laborers who have not been paid, because their employer thought he could outsmart the system. Interestingly, even if a worker is illegal once the employer has hired them and the worker has worked, they are obligated to pay them despite the laborer’s citizenship status.

Though I do not work directly with the woman from Casa that spoke during my service there, nor with legal work I could nonetheless see the connections. Right now at Casa I am researching city council members so that Casa can better lobby for legislation to get passed, and the possibility of a women’s cooperative. The women that Casa works with showed an interest in having a cooperative, because similar to the men they often work in unsafe, unstable, unpaid positions. First, we are trying to find ways for the women to get different basic certifications such as CPR, child care, and nursing assistant to begin. Though the male workers are vulnerable, women workers are vulnerable in an entirely differently way, which is why they want to create some sort of supportive cooperative.

It is interesting to consider the rights of immigrants, especially Latin American immigrants, through a Jesuit perspective, because so many Jesuits have been murdered due to their involvement in the rights of Latin Americans who are materially poor. In El Salvador the death of the Jesuits and their housekeeper is infamous due in part to America’s involvement in the training of those who committed the murders. Loyola’s situation is complicated, because as a large institution it cannot necessarily take large steps aiding illegal immigrants whether or not that fits within our ideals.

In “Thank You, M’am”, Langston Hughes examines the responsibility of a person to educate those they are aware of needing it. The boy who attempted to steal from Mrs. Jones wanted only a pair of shoes. While Mrs. Jones could have easily demanded her purse back and left the boy alone, despite having recognized his need for attention, she decided to not. It is the idea that one cannot sit idlely by knowing that someone you let by will commit an injustice again. If all the students who attended the panel were to act as Mrs. Jones did, people everywhere would begin being held more accountable for their injustices. However, most students are not comfortable making statements as large as that. Loyola’s lack of involvement in the immigration issue sets an example for the students, saying don’t get involved in something too big because it could be dangerous. Though I don’t blame Loyola for this position, it is unfortunate that so many students are following the example.

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