Worldwide economic imbalances spur migration
By Sue Schulzetenberg
Since the beginning of time, people have left their homelands in search of a better place for their families.
That has not changed.What has changed is the number of people migrating.
A record-breaking 212 million people around the world are living away from their homelands for more than a year, said Father Daniel Groody, associate professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.“
That’s the very conservative number. If you were to put displaced people into that number, that would be close to 1 billion people,” he said. “So somewhere between one out every 35 people to one out of every six people in the world could be considered a migrant today.”
Migrants include economic migrants who leave their countries in search of better job opportunities, refugees who fear that they will be killed or tortured if sent back to their homeland, internally displaced people who leave their home but are still in their country, and victims of human trafficking, Father Groody explained at the Sept. 30 Justice for Immigrants Regional Conference in Collegeville.
About 100 people attended the Justice for Immigrants conference, in which Father Groody explained the causes and history of immigration and responses to it. He showed his video “Dying to Live: A Migrant’s Journey,” which explains who immigrants are, why they leave their homes and what they face, especially along the U.S. and Mexico border. He also described numerous groups’ viewpoints on immigration: vigilantes who protect personal property along the border; Homeland Security, which enforces policy; political leaders who create policy; corporations that use cheap labor; and church leaders and human rights advocates who see immigrants as people needing assistance.
Focusing on the economic migrant, Father Groodyplained that in many places of the world, people do not have enough food or money for necessary medications.“Migration is not a problem in itself but is a symptom of deeper problems. These problems are really rooted in economic imbalances,” Father Groody said.
Forty-eight percent of the people in the world live on less than $2 a day, while the top 5 percent make more than $50 a day. Fifty percent of the people in the world have less than $2,200 to their names while the top 1 percent of the world has more than a half million dollars to their name.“
The top 1 percent of the world has as much as the poorest 57 percent of the world, and the three richest people in the world have as much as the poorest 48 nations,” he said.The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took a stance to address these and other root causes of immigration in their document “Strangers No Longer.”
“The Church has consistently singled out economic inequality between nations as a global disorder that must be addressed,” reads the 2003 USCCB document. “Within the United States-Mexico relationship, we have witnessed the application of economic policies that do not adequately take into account the welfare of individual proprietors who struggle to survive. ... Both nations should reconsider the impact of economic and trade agreements on persons who work hard at making a living through individual enterprises.”
Migrant rootsThough the numbers may be higher than ever, instances of migration have been happening for centuries, and migration is in people’s genes, spiritually and physically, Father Groody said.
With a cheek cell sample and a kit from National Geographic and IBM, he could trace back his migration history 80,000 years. It is believed that his long-ago ancestors began migrating from Africa, eventually arrived in Europe and then traveled to the United States.
Examples of our “spiritual history” of migration can be seen with Abraham migrating to the Promised Land, Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection, and the sending of the disciples to all nations, he said.
CNS file photo / David Maung
Young undocumented migrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca look up at a U.S. Border Patrol agent after being detained in the mountains east of San Diego in February 2008. In his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate" (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI called modern migration a phenomenon “worthy of attention.” “Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance,” he said.
Immigration puzzle complex; root causes, stereotypes critical pieces
By Sue Schulzetenberg
In her youth, Reyna Mata never thought about leaving her home country of Mexico.
“I said, ‘I’m going to fight for my country; we can’t let our country down; let’s try to create a beautiful country,’ ” Mata said. “When you are young, you feel you are powerful. When you grow up and you have a family and you see this corruption, you say, ‘Oh no, it’s not that easy.’ I was not thinking of coming over here until I had a baby and my husband couldn’t find a job, and he came over here.”
After finding a job in the United States, Mata’s husband sent for her. In Minnesota, Mata feels safer and blessed for the new opportunities. The family attends St. Joseph Church in Waite Park.
In Mexico, unemployment is high, and the prospect of higher wages and reasonable housing costs in Minnesota is appealing to immigrants, she said. However, getting a job in the United States is not as simple as some hopeful immigrants anticipate.
“They have to socialize with more people if they want to get a job. This is when they find out it is not so easy,” she said.
Another challenge, Mata added, is adapting to the culture and learning when to use simple gestures like hugs or handshaking. Immigrants also face stereotypes, and that is where Mata thought people could learn from Father Groody’s presentation at the Justice for Immigrants Regional Conference Sept. 30 at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
“Sometimes [people] have stereotypes without going too deep on what is happening to this person or what is going on with them, and that creates insecurities for everybody,” she said.
One place she feels is especially helpful for Hispanic immigrants is Centro Hispano of St. Joseph Church in Waite Park. The center connects immigrants with agencies and the community and provides a bridge between Hispanics and Anglos.
Hispanic immigrants in the Waite Park area often come for economic reasons, said Kathy Peterson, a volunteer at Centro Hispano. She appreciated how Father Groody explained the numerous immigration debate players: vigilantes, Homeland Security, political leaders, corporations, church leaders and human rights advocates.
“It’s important to try to understand all points of view, to try to understand the people who are not so positive about new immigrant people who are here, and not be confrontational but be understanding and keep the dialogue going,” she said.
Many driving forces
In Melrose, most of the immigrants have come for jobs as well, and when they come, they find that they are needed because the jobs they get are not ones that people are waiting in lines for, said Franciscan Sister Adela Gross, Hispanic pastoral minister at St. Mary Parish in Melrose.
Noting the high number of people migrating, as Father Groody mentioned in his presentation, Sister Adela said there is much instability. She thinks that economic imbalances, wars, global warming and natural disasters are all driving forces for migration.
Immigrants today face some of the same issues that European immigrants faced more than hundred years ago, she said.
“There’s a sense of being uprooted. They are in this new culture and having to adapt to so many things at once. It causes all kinds of turmoil within families, and they are separated from the rest of the family. Their roots are still in another country,” she said.
To raise awareness of immigration issues, Sister Adela has shown Father Groody’s videos, “Dying to Live” and “One Border, One Body: Immigration and the Eucharist” to parish groups, like students and the social concerns committee.
“He does such a wonderful job of showing the complexities of the immigration debate,” Sister Adela said. “He showed all the different stakeholders that there are. When we hear all these different messages, it’s coming from different groups. There’s not just one simple solution to this immigration problem.”
Joan Krause, faith formation director at Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids and another attendee at Father Groody’s presentation, said it is important for everyone to understand the issues related to immigration. Not many immigrants attend Sacred Heart Church, but she hopes to raise awareness of the issues through intergenerational faith formation sessions.
“We all need to be aware of it. We all intersect with it in different ways,” she said. “We need to be aware of the basic human dignity of all persons and clarify misconceptions on why immigrants are coming here. In terms of being able to survive and help their families, that’s the basic reason. So we need to look at how we can help the families and treat them as dignified individuals.”