Last week, he presented his position in Arlington Heights, during a panel presentation hosted by members of the Chicago-based, Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, of which the Viatorians are members.
In a combination of testimony and stories, Bishop Kicanas described the current immigration system as broken, and he pointed to its impact on immigrant and refugee children — perhaps the most vulnerable population impacted by our nation’s immigration laws.
His keynote address came just days before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a report calling for a “transformation” of the current immigration system into one that “affords due process protections, honors human dignity and minimizes the use of detentions.”
Bishop Kicanas and the workshop presenters, made an impact on members of the Viatorian Community who attended.
“I learned that the undocumented, incarcerated children, with whom we as Viatorians work, are caught up in an unjust system that gives them absolutely no rights,” said Br. John Eustice, CSV. “Minors who are undocumented immigrants are not guaranteed a state appointed attorney to represent them. They are expected to represent themselves regardless of age (even if they are 3 years old) or language barrier.
“These really are the ones accounted of no importance — in the eyes of U.S. law,” he added, pointing to a key tenet of the Viatorian vision statement.
Viatorian Associate Lynda Connor found the presentation by Sr. Bernadine Karge, OP, to be eye opening, especially the legal roadblocks faced by immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
“The numbers she presented regarding the high costs of obtaining bail and the great lack of representation for immigrants was staggering,” Lynda said. “The helplessness of those arrested for minor infractions was appalling.”
As a community, Viatorians have made working for immigration reform a priority, and specifically working to accompany recently detained immigrants and offering community-based alternatives to detention.
In fact, two men from the Marie Joseph Houses of Hospitality, one from El Salvador and one from Eritrea, shared their stories of migration after the workshops.
“I feel the Viatorian Community is clearly living out its mission through being involved with these issues,” Br. John added, “but I feel we as a community have much more to do.”