Open Your Heart and Door

By Yangquiansu ‘Chelsey’ Cao, CCAO Fall Intern

“Migrants have always been marginalized as a part of the ‘throw-away’ culture,” said Sister Ann Scholz in her opening remarks for a recent briefing entitled, “The Pope Francis Effect on Immigration: Protecting Families and Advancing the Common Good”, sponsored by the Justice for Immigrants Coalition. Sister Ann continued by referencing Pope Francis’ quote to “open your heart and door” to migrants. This sentiment is the hope of the U.S. Catholic community when it comes to immigration policy, especially along US-Mexico border.

The first panelist, Father Sean Carroll of the Kino Border Initiative, made a report on the realities of migrants along the border. According to a recent report published by the Jesuit Conference and the Kino Border Initiative, one third of migrants surveyed reported they were treated with some level of violence, either verbal or physical, during their arrest, detention or deportation. The next panelist, Pilar Molina, became a victim of the broken immigration system when her husband was taken away from her and their two lovely daughters. Pilar described her heart-breaking experience to the audience: “The hardest part is every night, my daughters would ask me ‘when is daddy coming home’”.

While presenting us with the cruel truth of immigration in the US, the panel also gave us some hope and expectation for improvements. Sister JoAnn Persch of the Sisters of Mercy has been standing in solidarity with fellow migrant brothers and sisters at Broadview Immigration Processing Center in Chicago, IL every Friday for seven years. Sister JoAnn founded the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants. She and her organization have improved the situation for detained immigrants, especially migrant families, by operating alternatives to detention programs. Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration Policy and Public Affairs with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a policy expert in the field and he discussed how the pope’s address to Congress could make an impact on U.S. immigration policy.

We are all very excited that Pope Francis visited Washington D.C. this past week, and we are excited about the conversations his visit has sparked. We are all called to work for a better reality for our migrant brothers and sisters. Maybe with the pope’s and our endeavors, one day we will be able to truly open our heart and gate to our brothers and sisters.