Calling attention to Title 42 during National Migration Week

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Calling attention to Title 42 during National Migration Week

In observance of National Migration Week, Sept. 20-26, 2021, Archdiocese of Chicago parishes and its immigration ministry hosted events celebrating Chicago’s diverse Catholic community. This year’s National Migration Week theme is “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’.” Those events included an immigration vigil with the Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants on Sept. 25 and a Mass at St. Constance Church for the Polish immigrant-to-immigrant ministry on Sept. 20. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Benedictine Sister Benita Coffey holds up a sign supporting immigrants. As part of National Migration Week, The Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants hosted a vigil at the intersection of Ashland/Milwaukee Avenues and Division Street to protest the continuance of Title 42, which denies entry into the U.S. without a hearing or any proof of contagion on Sept. 25, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Viatorian Father Corey Brost, Sister of Providence Kathleen Desautels and Jessica Alaniz, associate director at Bethany House of Hospitality, hold up signs on Division Street. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sister of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis Alexanne Osinski holds up a sign welcoming immigrants. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Franciszek and Anna Posek pray during Mass. St. Constance Parish, 5843 W. Strong St., hosted a Mass in honor of National Migration Week with special intentions for all immigrants on Sept. 20, 2021. The Mass was organized by the Polish Immigrant to Immigrant Ministry with special guest Brother Ayub Mwenda, a Franciscan from Kenya. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Brother Ayub Mwenda, a Franciscan from Kenya, speaks to the congregation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Marek M. Smolka, associate pastor of Holy Name Cathedral and coordinator of the Polish Council for the Archdiocese of Chicago, distributes Communion during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

About a dozen members of the Brothers and Sisters of Immigrants held homemade signs and distributed flyers urging people to contact their elected officials about immigration policy on the plaza in the center of the busy intersection of Division Street and Milwaukee and Ashland avenues the morning of Sept. 25.

A few people honked in support, and at least one passer-by, a young man on a bicycle, stopped to engage Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth Catherine Fedewa.

“You hear so many things,” he said. “I don’t know what to believe.”

Sister Catherine spent the next several minutes talking to the man, explaining the benefits immigrants bring to the U.S. economy and the desperation that forces them to leave their homes to try their luck here.

Even undocumented immigrants pay taxes, she pointed out. “And they don’t get anything back,” she said.

The vigil was one of several events that took place in the Archdiocese of Chicago in observation of National Migration Week Sept. 20-26.

The official purpose of the vigil was to protest Title 42, a provision that allows the U.S. government to turn people away at the border because of a public health emergency.

The administration of President Donald Trump interpreted the code to mean migrants should not be given the opportunity to apply for asylum when it began using it in 2020. President Joe Biden has continued the policy.

Between October 2020 and August 2021, 938,045 migrants were expelled under Title 42, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

That was before thousands of Haitian migrants in an encampment near Del Rio, Texas, were flown back to Haiti in September; thousands more have been moved from the camp for processing or to initiate removal proceedings, which will allow them to apply for asylum.

The use of Title 42 has been decried by immigration advocates, and whether it could be used against families was the subject of ongoing court proceedings in late September.

“We’re calling for an end to Title 42, where the government is using it to keep out asylum seekers,” said Viatorian Brother Michael Gosch, director of programs and housing at the Viatorian House of Hospitality, which offers a home to young men who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors. Without somewhere to go on their 18th birthdays, they would have been moved from child care facilities to adult detention centers.

The Sept. 25 vigil was in partnership with the Kino Border Initiative, which was holding its own vigil in Nogales, Arizona.

“I think people don’t understand what’s going on with Title 42,” Brother Michael said. “We have the capacity to test people for COVID-19 and to quarantine them if they’re positive and to vaccinate them.”

“They are stopping people from expressing their legitimate fears,” Sister Catherine said. “We want people to have a chance to apply for asylum.”

Viator House and a similar home for young women, Bethany House, have already welcomed their first young people fleeing from Afghanistan, leaders said.

“We’re happy to do it,” Gosch said, though he noted that the young adults they have welcomed from Afghanistan are in the U.S. on “humanitarian parole,” which means they do not get the same level of support as people who are designated “refugees,” and it is up to the communities who receive them to provide for their needs. 

Viatorian Father Corey Brost, executive director of the Viatorian House of Hospitality, said they have welcomed one young man who was 17 when he left Afghanistan with his older brother and was separated from him at Fort Bliss because he was a minor. He has since turned 18, and Brost and his colleagues are trying to reunite the brothers.

Other National Migration Week events included a Sept. 20 Mass at St. Constance Parish, 5843 W. Strong St. The Mass, celebrated with the intention of praying for all immigrants, was organized by the parish’s Polish immigrant-to-immigrant ministry; a Sept. 22 evening of reflection at St. Leonard Church in Berwyn and a Sept. 26 webinar about Pope Francis call to widen the church’s concept of “we,” hosted by the archdiocesan Immigration Ministry.

For nearly a half century, the Catholic Church in the United States has celebrated National Migration Week in January.

This year, it was moved to align with Pope Francis’s 2019 announcement that the World Day of Migrants and Refugees would be celebrated on the last Sunday of September.


  • immigration

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