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NEW YORK – When Antonio Guzman-Diaz meets with senators on Capitol Hill about migration today, he’ll anchor his appeal for change on the realities migrants face: Both his own as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, and those of his community who have been forced to flee dire circumstances in their home countries.
“The approach is going to be just displaying the reality we are facing but also helping them see that they need to make accountable those who are in power in other countries so they can stop the migration they are seeing,” Diaz, the Archdiocese of Detroit coordinator of Hispanic ministry, told Crux. “We don’t want people to have to leave their countries, their land.”
Diaz is one of about 400 Hispanic Catholic leaders in Washington, D.C. today, meeting with senators to urge them to address the root causes of migration, and pass legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders. The mobilization was organized by Catholic Relief Services in conjunction with the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry.
The effort coincides with the sixth National Catholic Congress of Hispanic Ministry, titled “Raíces y Alas” (Roots and Wings), organized by the NCCHM. Elisabeth Román, the organization’s president said in a statement that it’s time “for the Latino community to assume its leadership and one way to do so is through advocacy.”
The Hispanic Catholic leaders will have the opportunity to meet with senators from 30 states either in person or virtually depending on each senator’s COVID-19 office protocol. The advocates will represent about 35 dioceses, according to Roberto Navarro, the CRS senior director of U.S. church engagement.
Immigration advocates have increasingly called on the U.S. government to address the root causes of migration through the pandemic as circumstances in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean have worsened. Poverty, violence, corruption, and a lack of jobs in these countries were all exacerbated by COVID, causing people to head north, and leading to a record number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Diaz said now is the perfect time to address congressional leaders with COVID declining in the U.S., saying that “it’s important that we speak up because we have seen how all of these communities have been affected” by the pandemic.
In a conversation with Crux, Diaz also noted that to try and appeal to senators on both sides of the political aisle it will be important to speak from the faith perspective.
“We always start from the faith perspective because as Catholics we are called to make sure we raise the voice of those in need and that we share the gifts that we are given by God,” he said.
Father Juan Molina, the president/CEO of the Mexican American Catholic College in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, who will also be in Washington, D.C. today, told Crux it will be important to appeal to history and the domestic interests of the senators.
Historically, Molina highlighted, a divided Congress has come together in the past to pass immigration legislation “because [migration] is affecting our own country, not just other countries.” He added that the domestic interest of senators comes from changing demographics.
“As more and more Hispanics become citizens, but also the children of Hispanics, who are born in this country come of age, this is an important issue for them and therefore, paying attention to whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican is also in the Congress person’s self interest,” he said.
Molina said he hopes as a result of today’s advocacy from Hispanic Catholic leaders Congress will adopt a smarter system of giving foreign aid, especially to Latin America – something the Church has long advocated for that Molina argues “has fallen on deaf ears.” He said it’s important that the aid help countries’ poorer populations develop.
In addition to root causes, Diaz said today is another opportunity to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. However, he recognizes that will take a while to implement, so in the short term he wants to see new pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients and farm workers.
Diaz detailed his personal struggles as a DACA recipient to Crux, explaining the struggle of working through the renewal process at immigration offices every three years and the insecurity he and others in his situation are forced to live with.
“We need something stable that allows us to have the peace we deserve,” Diaz said. “It’s just so hard so I’m hoping we can advocate for DACA recipients and farm workers while we work to fix the immigration system.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg