Human Dignity and the Migration Crisis at the U.S. Southern Border

Responses and Responsibilities

Young boy at the U.S.-Mexico border

April 24, 2023
6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. EDT
Location: School of Continuing Studies Auditorium and Second Floor Overlook Map

The humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border has been visible for decades, but it has now reached an unprecedented level of urgency. Political unrest, ecological disasters, economic deprivation, and intensifying violence have resulted in accelerated levels of irregular migration. Various challenges to asylum access imposed by both the Trump and Biden administrations have left thousands of asylum seekers stranded in border cities or attempting risky crossings in remote areas and relying on organized crime groups to smuggle them. These situations, Pope Francis says, happen when “humanity as a whole loses its bearings”; they are a sign that “we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others.”

This timely Latino Leader Gathering examined the moral and human costs of a broken status quo on immigration policy and what obstacles and opportunities exist to build a new approach that upholds human dignity and advances the common good. Four leaders with differing experiences, expertise, and perspectives explored how past and current policies have failed and discuss where we need to go in light of Catholic social teaching and our nation’s values to, as Pope Francis has said, “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” migrants and refugees.

This gathering had three parts:

6:00 - 7:00 p.m. | Happy Hour
Mingling with fellow young leaders over food and drink

7:00 - 8:00 p.m. | Latino Leaders Gathering 
A dialogue and conversation on “Human Dignity and the Migration Crisis at the U.S. Southern Border”

8:00 - 9:00 p.m. | Reception
Conversation with the participants and other young leaders over food and drink

The participants addressed questions such as:

  • What are the moral implications and human costs of specific U.S. action, or inaction, in response to the migration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border?

  • What have been the major challenges to asylum laws in recent years, and how have they affected people who are migrating to the United States? 

  • How has large-scale migration from Latin America changed norms and understandings of the right to asylum and its role in U.S. immigration law and policy? What is the future of this right and of the responsibilities of institutions? What needs to change?

  • How should faith, particularly Catholic social teaching, shape our assessment of current policies and the search for new and better policies?

  • What is the role of race in all of this? How do race and class factor into the dehumanization of migrants in policymaking and in public attitudes?

  • What are the greatest challenges to making effective immigration policy? How can we center policy conversations on the human elements and costs of this situation?

Ligia Gomez, who is seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing Nicaragua and advocates for others who have recently migrated, opened the gathering by sharing her experience. Kim Daniels, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, moderated the conversation.

This Latino Leader Gathering was for young Latino Catholics and others to explore key issues and personal stories involving faith and public life with distinguished Latinos and other leaders. It was co-sponsored by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

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