Immigration issues expert from Jesuit Refugee Services to teach at Fairfield University; available to discuss the Bush immigration plan


Image: Rick RyscavageThe United States' issues with immigration are part of a global problem of migration that encompasses people fleeing their home nations for a variety of reasons, from oppressive political regimes to the hope of a better economic future, said Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., a visiting professor at Fairfield University and a former national director for Jesuit Refugee Service USA. JRS is an international Catholic organization whose mission is to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced people.

"One of the core problems is that there is no agency or international organization to deal with immigration and immigration issues, and to manage migration uniformly," said Fr. Ryscavage who has served on the U.S. delegation to the governing body of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for the last three years.

There are 8 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, according to the 2000 Census. However the last time the government had a serious proposal to deal with the issue was during the Reagan administration, Fr. Ryscavage said. Reagan's plan was a full amnesty and legalization program.

The plan proposed by President Bush will allow the undocumented immigrants three year renewable work permits but not amnesty or citizenship. Bush's plan is a step in the right direction because it documents the workers and by de-criminalizing their status, protects them from persecution, Fr. Ryscavage said. Illegal immigrants often submit to exploitation because their persecutors threaten to have them deported if they do not comply.

"Having some system by which people can regularize their status in the United States is very important," said Katherine Kidd, Ph.D., director of the International Studies Program at Fairfield University. "Because the people are in a criminalized status, they become vulnerable to exploitation."

Fr. Ryscavage will deal with migration and other issues in a course on International Organizations that he is teaching this semester at Fairfield University. In addition to an overview of international private and public groups, Fr. Ryscavage plans to provide his students with the knowledge to evaluate the growing number of international organizations working on projects across the global. He will also discuss how well-intentioned organizations can go astray.

Fr. Ryscavage has worked closely with many of the issues and organizations that will come up in class - at the helm of the JRS in Washington, D.C., which provides services to refugees in more than 40 countries; as the U.S. national secretary for Jesuit Social and International Ministries; and as the president of the Jesuit Missions. He also taught and researched for the Oxford University Refugee Studies Center at Campion hall, Oxford's Jesuit college.

Fr. Ryscavage earned his bachelor's degree in Foreign Affairs at Assumption College and went on to get a Master's degree in Political Philosophy from Boston College and a Master of International Administration from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vt. Fr. Ryscavage received his Master of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1977. In that same year he earned a Master in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 12, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 178