This past summer, as the world watched, glued to their televisions, thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America risk their lives to cross the border into the United States in search of asylum, the Georgetown University Law Center decided to act to combat this immigration crisis.
Georgetown’s Law Center will partner with Jesuit Refugee Services/USA, a leader in humanitarian and refugee aid to over 50 countries around the world in an effort to develop public policy recommendations that improve the legal environment for immigrants seeking protection in the United States.
This is an important step in addressing this humanitarian crisis since such a partnership allows Georgetown law students to positively contribute to aiding those in need. In an age where the practice of law can be stereotyped as self-serving, this is a refreshing instance of law used for the common good.
The coalition will bring together 12 Jesuit Law schools around the country, including those of Boston College, Fordham University and Loyola University New Orleans, drawing on the expertise and first-hand experience of each’s work with immigrant communities in their respective cities.
The Law Center’s participation is commendable, since it reinforces Georgetown’s own history in service to a global community through the sphere of public policy.
The tragedy brought forth by this mass movement of minors was horrific. According to a March 2014 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, since fiscal year 2009 to 2013, the number of asylum seekers from Central America to the United States has increased by over 600 percent, from 5,369 to 36,174, demonstrating that this is a problem that warrants the immediate attention of the international community. It is reassuring that the university stood by its Jesuit values and chose to take initiative in addressing the crisis’ true victims.
The initiative’s ties to the Jesuit mission are significant. As Jane Aiken, director of Georgetown’s Community Justice Project put it, “This is about social justice.” This collaboration has enabled the Law Center to demonstrate its commitment to the most marginalized populations. Additionally, such an effort goes a long way to uphold a longstanding Jesuit tradition of protecting refugees and migrants.
Using the narratives and firsthand experiences of the immigrant population in crafting policy will work to ensure that, at the end of the day, government policies will truly help those in need.