Experts differ on approach to migration at Jesuit conference at Fairfield University

Experts differ on approach to migration at Jesuit conference at Fairfield University

While international experts called for a global approach to the myriad issues of migration, the United States is "highly skeptical" of the United Nations' ability to address the situation successfully, according to a representative from the U.S. State Department who spoke during the first day of a three-day symposium on migration at Fairfield University.

Kelly Ryan, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, said regional efforts, such as ongoing talks between President Bush and Canadian and Mexican leaders, are the way to tackle migration issues because world regions have widely differing views of the merits and challenges of people leaving their homelands.

"The U.S., the largest migration-receiving nation, has little to discuss with Japan," Ryan told about 100 participants from 20 Jesuit institutions of higher learning in the United States, Mexico, Central America and Africa.

Ryan was one of several speakers during the first day of "Migration Studies & Jesuit Identity: Forging a Path Forward," a three-day consideration of migration, which has been designated one of five primary apostolic priorities for the Society of Jesus. The group also heard a keynote address from the Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn and U.S. representative on the United Nations Global Commission on International Migration.

Fr. DiMarzio explained how the U.N. Global Commission painstakingly researched and gathered information for its much-anticipated report of findings, which will be formally announced at the end of June by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The findings cover a wide range of migration issues, from smuggling and trafficking to the so-called "brain drain" that some struggling countries face when their best and brightest decide to leave.

The report is still "a work in progress," but Fr. DiMarzio said one thing is already clear: Migration crosses borders both literally and figuratively and countries must work together to help preserve the dignity of the human beings involved.

""If we lose perspective that these are people who migrate, we will never get it right," he said. "And if we cannot get nations together to deal with this issue, nothing will get done."

Fairfield University joins The Association of American Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), the Social and International Ministries Office of the United States Jesuit Conference and Jesuit Refugee Service in hosting the migration event, which takes place today through Saturday.

The conference marks the first time the Jesuit universities and colleges have attempted to join forces to collaborate on one academic area, said Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., a visiting professor at Fairfield University and a former national director for Jesuit Refugee Service USA. It's also particularly timely, as the United States Congress is poised to consider reform of U.S. immigration law, said Fr. Ryscavage, who is also one of the coordinators of the conference.

The United Nations estimates that approximately one out of every 35 persons worldwide is an international migrant. The conference seeks to explore ways that the Society of Jesus and Jesuit higher education institutions might establish collaborative relationships in migration studies and enhance the status of migration as an area for academic research.

A second goal is to investigate avenues for curriculum development, traditional interdisciplinary course instruction, and experiential approaches such as service learning. Finally, the conference aims to consider ways Jesuit colleges and universities might play an advocacy role in helping alleviate current injustices experienced by migrants.

Some of the Jesuit schools, such as Georgetown University and Fordham University, already have graduate initiatives dealing with migration. Fairfield University itself offers a number of migration courses, has hired new faculty members in sociology and international studies whose expertise is in international migration, and has tackled the issue of immigration in both its Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and its School of Nursing. The conference will help pool some of the great work and expertise developed individually by the Jesuit schools, Fr. Ryscavage said.

The Society of Jesus has named migration as one of its focal issues. The Jesuit Refugee Service has already done extensive work in the area, and has come to be known for its personalized approach to helping refugees. Whereas larger non-governmental organizations often supply food and medicine, JRS does not make assumptions about what the refugees require, and tries to provide for needs that the refugees themselves outline, such as education or pastoral counseling.

The conference kicked off Thursday with an introduction and welcome by Father Lluis Magriña, S.J., a representative from the Jesuit Superior General in Rome and director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome. In addition to Fr. Magriña's remarks, participants heard from Luca Dall'Oglio, permanent observer to the U.N. from the International Organization for Migration.

Calling migration "one of the biggest issues of our time," Dall'Oglio called the U.N.'s global commission and its efforts to energize international collaboration "both courageous and risky at the same time."

Though much research has been done, Dall'Oglio said he'd like to see a more comprehensive study of human trafficking that includes issues of the traffickers and clients, as well as the victims.

Despite the sometimes divisive political climate that arises around the idea of globalization, he said an international approach that focuses on human rights and needs is crucial to the debate.

"Migrants must not be allowed to become the scapegoats of global social change in the 21st century," he said.

Other featured speakers at the symposium are: Dr. Jeffrey Crisp, director of Research, Global Commission on Migration; Dr. Jose Luis Rocha, investigator, Instituto de Investigacion y Desarrollo at UCA; Dr. Susan Forbes Martin, director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University; Dr. Katherine Kidd, director of International Studies at Fairfield University; Donald Kerwin, executive director of The Catholic Legal Immigration Network; and Dr. T. Alexander Aleinikoff, dean of the Georgetown University Law Center.

Fairfield University also hopes to use the conference as a launching point for a three-year center based at the University with a full-time staff member to continue networking and collaborative programming among the schools promoting curriculum development, joint research, lectures and events on migration.

"I anticipate a significant number of important outcomes, in terms of research, curriculum development, service and advocacy from this initiative," said Mark LeClair, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at Fairfield University, who would be the faculty leader for such a center.

Editors please note : This conference is not open to the public, but reporters are invited to cover the lectures.

Posted On: 06-09-2005 10:06 AM

Volume: 37 Number: 284