Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Addressing Immigration Orders with Intellect, Faith and Action

St. Thomas University has decided to address President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration and refugees with a combination of intellect, faith, and action.

Shortly after the order - now on hold due to a federal court ruling - was issued, the university’s School of Law and Center for Community Engagement co-hosted a panel discussion titled, “Justice for All?: The Moral and Legal Implications of President Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration.”

The event gathered Catholic immigration advocates including Randolph McGrorty, CEO of Catholic Legal Services of Miami; Christine Reis, director of St. Thomas’ Human Rights Institute; Lauren Gilbert, St. Thomas University professor of immigration law; and Diego Sanchez, a St. Thomas Law student who played an important role in efforts to pass the DREAM act and other legislation for undocumented youths.

At the event, McGrorty explained the details of a number of the orders, while also noting that they were being contested in the courts, leaving their future unclear. Reis and Gilbert echoed McGrorty’s sentiments, while noting the Catholic Church’s longtime support for immigrant rights.

They emphasized the important role Catholics have in expressing their concerns to their elected officials and advocating for more just policies toward immigrants and refugees.

Sanchez spoke about the numerous gifts that immigrants bring to the South Florida community, and the role that students can play in addressing policies as they are developed.

Following the panel discussion, St. Thomas University’s Campus Ministry sponsored a Mass and candlelight vigil in solidarity with immigrants titled “Welcoming the Stranger.”

Following the Mass, students made a “pilgrimage” around campus, with stops at various stations to pray and hear testimonies of fellow students who had fled violence in their own countries and come to the United States as refugees.

St. Thomas University will be transforming their study and prayer into action over the next weeks, with visits to legislators to advocate for more inclusive policies toward immigrants.

In an official statement, Msgr. Frankyln Casale, president of St. Thomas University, echoed the sentiment of Catholic university leaders throughout the country in expressing strong opposition to the executive orders.

“We celebrate the value of diversity within Catholic higher education," Msgr. Casale said, "(and) we reaffirm the commitment of our institutions to creating inclusive, welcoming campus environments that embrace people of all faiths and cultures. Catholic higher education was founded precisely to serve the children of Catholic immigrants who in their own time were excluded from higher education. This is a legacy that we proudly pledge to continue.”

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