Migration & Refugees

We are called to welcome the stranger.

Columban missionaries serve migrants and refugees in a dozen countries throughout Asia Pacific and the Americas, as well as on the U.S. – Mexico border. Keeping in mind the Gospel mandate and our Catholic Social Teaching, we strive to “welcome the stranger” and to protect and promote the rights of migrants and refugees everywhere.

As Columbans, we believe we are called to both serve the needs of migrants and to address the root causes of migration.

We advocate for action on root causes of migration.

In 2015, the number of migrants internationally reached 244 million, including 20 million refugees (UN Migration). These include economic migrants compelled to move to feed their families, refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing persecution and environmental crises, and victims of human trafficking.

We recognize the right to migrate in order to seek both safety and a higher quality of life, but often global economic policies, environmental crises, and conflicts result in grave inequalities and unstable conditions forcing people to move. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has recognized, “all peoples have the right to conditions worthy of human life and, if these conditions are not present, the right to migrate.”

We advocate for compassionate immigration reform.

Columbans respond to the harsh realities that migrants face, including separation from their families and imprisonment in detention centers and jails. Compassionate immigration reform is necessary to ensure family unity, protect the rights and dignity of migrants, and heal our communities.

On the U.S. – Mexico Border, countless migrants have risked death and deportation to cross into the U.S. in order to flee the violence and instability in their home countries. In the midst of a destructive militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, Columbans call for a more compassionate border policy that affirms the dignity of migrants and celebrates the vibrancy and importance of border communities which continue to welcome our migrant brothers and sisters.

We advocate for reforms to stop human trafficking.

Migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking often leave their home countries to seek better economic conditions to support their families. This too can lead to exploitation of migrants, putting them in danger of death or serious injury, sexual abuse, and low wages. As God calls us to respect the dignity of every human life, we must continue to support policies that represent the interests of migrant workers and refugees.

Migration Resources:


Migration & Refugees

  • Religious Leaders Sign Letter Supporting Refugee Resettlement

    As religious leaders from a variety of backgrounds, we are called by our sacred texts and faith traditions to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner. War, conflict and persecution have forced people to leave their homes, creating more refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people than at any other time in history. More than 65 million people are currently displaced – the largest number in recorded history. This nation has an urgent moral responsibility to receive...

  • Take Action on National Migration Week

    National Migration Week

    Every January, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates this spirit of welcome through National Migration Week. Now more than ever, it is important for the Church to “reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.” As members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign, Columbans throughout the United States join in this celebration! In this...

  • Inspired to Advocacy

    I first became aware of the challenges facing migrants, especially unaccompanied minors, in my high school Spanish classes when I watched Rebecca Cammisa’s documentary Which Way Home. Which Way Home follows eight Central American children, mostly from the Northern Triangle, as they try to travel north through Mexico to reach the United States. The children travel on la Bestia, the freight trains than run throughout Mexico, before attempting to find smugglers to bring them into...

  • Learning to Welcome the Stranger

    On September 28th, the House Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest held a hearing on the United States’ refugee resettlement plan for the upcoming fiscal year. As I watched the hearing, I was struck by how much the discussion reflected the complete polarization of views that has become evident across the country over the last few years. There seems to be two primary questions dominating our national discussion about refugee resettlement: Is it more important...

  • Breaking Homes

    The LA Times published an article about the recent decision made in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concerning the well-being of detained children who crossed the border illegally. The appeal case was based on the High court`s interpretation of the Flores agreement made in 1997. The Flores agreement “set legal requirements for the housing of children seeking asylum or in the country illegally”. The court held the opinion of the plaintiff`s argument that Flores applies to all children not solely...

  • Enough Courage to Try

    In the midst of many small, humble homes is the house of Sister Betty and Father Peter. The houses stand, some almost hardly standing, along a dirt path in one of the poorer areas of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Sister Betty tells us about her work in the community to bring together women, empowering them against the abuse of spouses and hardship in the area. Behind the house is a patio with murals. One contains the names of people that were murdered or have disappeared in Juárez. One is a list...

  • Realizing My Passion and Vocation on the U.S.-Mexico Border

    Our time in El Paso, Texas was an incredible journey filled with sorrow, joy, laughter, love, and peace. We learned about the injustices that people suffer in the “Borderlands” (nickname for the area between US and Mexico) and all the amazing people working to make the lives of those who are marginalized better. Each day of my border immersion trip was packed with presentations, speakers, walking, and learning. Two experiences stood out to me that inspired me and gave me...

  • When Words aren't Enough

    As an English major, I spend the majority of my time reading and analyzing words. I have always found comfort in words. I like the way you can manipulate the sentence structure to emphasize a main point or how one word can carry many connotations that form together to produce a nuanced idea. I like words. But after my trip to the border, I am at a loss for words. I am at a loss for words partially because staying in El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico put a face to the issue of immigration...