In response to President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration, the Catholic Church should welcome refugees and immigrants, according to a panel of speakers Monday evening in Gaston Hall.
The panel, titled “Refugees and Immigrants: Welcoming the Stranger in Tough Times,” was hosted by the Georgetown Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and moderated by the initiative’s director John Carr.
The six panelists included Georgetown President Emeritus and Jesuit Refugee Service Interim Executive Director Fr. Leo O’Donovan, S.J., and Catholic Community Services of Salt Lake City Immigration and Refugee Resettlement Director Aden Batar, a Somalian refugee.
Panelist Bishop Ricardo Ramirez said the Catholic Church has been and remains committed to welcoming everyone.
“Moses and his people were migrants, they fled Egypt and they went to the promised land,” Ramirez said.
Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles President Alfonso Aguilar said he believes immigrants make the United States more American by instilling values of hope and freedom. Despite this, he said the United States still needs to maintain border security amid immigration growth.
“We do have to address the issue of security. I listen to the theological discussions, I believe in the refugee program, but the bishops also talk about the importance of border security,” Aguilar said. “We have to balance being a welcoming nation with ensuring the security of our territory. It’s a difficult balance.”
Aguilar, who criticized Trump’s rhetoric in the primaries, said he supported Trump’s immigration proposals during the general election because he believed in his ability to secure the border and reform the immigration system.
“In the Hispanic community and in other immigrant communities, the perception is that Republicans are bad, Democrats are good. I think it’s a very complicated issue,” Aguilar said. “I did criticize Donald Trump during the primary, but on immigration I actually ended up supporting Donald Trump. I am looking at the end goal to bring people out of the shadows and really reform our immigration system.”
Ashley Feasley, who serves as director of policy for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, said she felt those who opposed Trump’s policies, especially on immigration, should voice their opinions to enact change.
“What is really important is that we use our voice in this time period,” Feasley said. “That you, as citizens, say to your local lawmaker that you are against these executive orders and that you want your lawmaker, whether it’s your senator or your House of Representative member to vote against these bills.”
As a Mexican Georgetown student without documentation, Luis Gonzalez (COL ’19) said he appreciates the university’s efforts to support students without documentation.
“I am undocumented and I am unafraid,” Gonzalez said. “The reason why I say that I am unafraid is because I have an institution like Georgetown that is supportive of undocumented students. We have a university that has partnered with Catholic institutions to provide legal services for its undocumented student population.”
Despite the uncertain fate of immigrants in the United States, Ramirez said that if people of faith stand together, they will persevere.
“The last thing I want to say is that there is hope. I have hope especially that comes from our Catholic communities,” Ramirez said.