Speaking out for social justice

Connecting SCU’s Jesuit mission to immigration reform.

The call for social justice in immigration reform was voiced loudly and often on campus this spring. From quiet reflections with a handful of students to a public prayer service on the Mission steps, from the sound of single voices heard individually on phone calls to legislators to the collective voice of hundreds in solidarity at a campus rally in support of “A Day without Immigrants,” opportunities abounded for students, faculty, and staff to weigh in on the national issue. “I’m not sure we can sum up exactly what a single stance on immigration reform is, given the diversity of voices at the university,” noted campus minister Matt Smith, who participated in many of the events. “But I think there’s really a seamless connection between the issue and the Jesuit mission, because it’s people living out a faith that does justice. It’s people standing in solidarity with those who are affected by the issue. The idea of being ‘women and men, with and for others.’”

The March 14 gathering on the steps of the Mission brought together more than 100 clergy and lay leaders, said Rev. Carol Been, director of the Interfaith Council for Religion, Race, Economic, and Social Justice, which organized the event. The powerful collective cry for justice reflected in the remarks of SCU President Paul Locatelli, S.J., and others denouncing the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and those who assist them “has made a huge difference,” Been said.

The immigration debate has solidified the unity among various religious denominations and ethnic groups like no other issue, said Eduardo A. Samaniego, S.J., pastor of Holy Trinity Church in San Jose and an active member of the Interfaith Council. “It is making the Senate and Congress stand up and really rethink things.”

The individual voices of people who made calls from the campus to their legislators on May 17, joining those calling from Immigration Rights Call Centers across the country, have had a similar effect, Been noted.

That the voices come from a diverse population has particularly impressed Carlos Jiménez Cárdenas ’06, a program coordinator in the homelessness department in the Santa Clara Community Action Program. “It’s not just Latino students, which is what is more wonderful and amazing. We have students saying ‘we’re all immigrants.’” The support from the diverse SCU community has impressed Been as well. Students, she said, are “being encouraged, educated, and exposed to both the sufferings that go on in our world, as well as ways that they can do something about it.”

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