Teach-in held to work on immigrants’ status

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The Jesuit Social Research Institute and the Loyola community welcomed local high school students and young immigrants to create awareness about migration issues.

The Feb. 5 event was held in the Audubon Room on Loyola’s campus after members of Loyola’s Immigration Advocates provided immigrant teens and their parents a campus tour.

Mary Baudouin, provincial assistant for social ministries and representative of the Jesuits, addressed the community with prayer and gratitude.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for the local students from both high schools and Loyola to hear directly from young immigrants how and why they came to the U.S.,” Baudouin said.

Loyola welcomed student representatives from Brother Martin, Cabrini, Saint Mary’s Dominican and Jesuit high schools.

Sabrina Hernandez, a Loyola Immigration Advocacy project leader and environmental science senior, said she believes immigration is an issue that affects the Loyola community as well as society in general.

“Everyone who lives in this city is directly affected by the current immigration policies, whether they may realize it or not. Immigrants played a pivotal role in the rebuilding efforts of post-Katrina New Orleans,” Hernandez said. “With an ever-increasing population, immigrants are closely linked to our local economies.”

Hernandez said many immigrants live in fear of deportation.

“Like us, they have come to identify New Orleans as home. Compassion is everything. We owe it to them to serve as allies,” Hernandez said.

Service learning students and students from the Honors Spanish Program acted as small group leaders. In addition, students from Dr. Lisbeth Philipp’s Translation and Interpreting program provided interpreting services for the event.

Susan Weishar, migration specialist, led a large portion of the discussion.

“We are deeply grateful for the efforts of so many people who worked to make it a success,” Weishar said.

According to student feedback, the event was a success.

“We accomplished what we set out to do: to raise awareness among local Catholic high school students of the many hardships and injustices that undocumented immigrants face in their lives and the Church’s teachings on the rights of migrants, and to provide an opportunity for young migrants to tell their stories,” Weishar said.

The event provided a unique opportunity for local teens.

“It is quite rare for U.S. teens to meet and hear the stories of undocumented immigrant teens,” Weishar said. “It was a profound experience for many. People who have suffered much were willing to share their pain with others who were willing to truly listen and be present to such suffering.”

Fr. Fred Kammer, S.J., led the opening prayer for the event and said the teach-in was a success.

“I was impressed by the number of high school students and their engagement in the process, the work of the Loyola students in helping to make it a success and the courage of the young immigrants in telling their stories,” Kammer said.

Hernandez said she has hope for the future of immigration.

“Whether we personally know someone who is undocumented or not, it should not inhibit us from rallying for immigration reform,” Hernandez said. “Solidarity begins with identifying yourself in others. No one wants to be separated from their loved ones. No one wants to live in fear of police brutality. Everyone wants to have their voice heard and their rights as humans protected.”

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