As the topic of immigration reform hits the newsstands on a regular basis, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez explained how illegal immigration is not an issue of immigrants wanting to leave the life they love. It is a matter of them being forced to leave due to economic issues worldwide.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, Bishop Ramirez addressed the Cabrini community about his involvement with immigration reform and his experiences working on the borders of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.
As stated in the event program, Bishop Ramirez’s hope in relaying this information to faculty, staff, students and community members was to “put into place just immigration policies in the United States and to transform social and economic opportunities in Mexico and Central American so as to diminish dramatically the prevailing poverty.”
The focus of his work, being on the Mexican/American border, is Ciudad Juarez and the immigration that comes from this Mexican city. Interim President Deb Takes provided her insight on the discussion by saying that “he knows what he’s talking about because he lives it.” In working so closely with Juarez, Ramirez was able to observe the main causes of illegal immigration first-hand.
He stated that the main causes were that Mexican wages were being driven down, farmers were being forced off of their land, unions were destroyed and many were refugees or asylum seekers fleeing cartel wars.
Since 2007, 8,700 people have been killed in Juarez. This number fortunately went down to 750 in the year 2012. However, during the duration of the term of Mexico’s former president, Felipe Calderon, between 60,000 and 70,000 people were murdered throughout Mexico. The toll of those who escaped with their lives is nearly 230,000 people in the last few years alone.
Bishop Ramirez’s presentation occurred in celebration of Cabrini’s annual Founder’s Day, which takes place on Mother Ursula Infante’s birthday. In recognition of the mission of our college to work towards social justice, Founder’s Day incorporates a talk involving a current topic relating to social justice.
Along with Bishop Ramirez’s insightful discussion on the reality of immigration, Sister Bernadette Casciano provided a brief history of Mother Ursula and her life working as a Missionary Sister.
In speaking of our founder, Casciano brought out Mother Ursula’s love educating the community on world issues by saying that Mother Ursula “lived in a time where the term ‘social justice’ was not even a vocabulary word. She was an educator and knew that we needed education to help us with social justice.”
Bishop Ramirez has built his live in following just that idea. One particular example of this is his acknowledgement of those who have past away in trying to cross the U.S./Mexican border. Each year on Nov. 2, Ramirez holds a mass along the “ugly fence” that separates the two countries. He stated, “The border fence divides us but the mass unites us.” Even as they are constantly being monitored by border patrol both on the ground and in the air, the praying continues.
The purpose in holding this yearly mass is to pay respect to those who lost their lives in trying to flee to a better life. Unfortunately, this number is expecting to only continue to grow as Senate Bill 744 called for a doubling of border patrol officers to 40,000 and an additional 350 miles of fencing to prevent immigrants from crossing over. This would then force those immigrants to travel farther into the desert where they are more likely to face a fatal end.
Those who leave do not wish to do so. They “have to leave Vera Cruz when the water is so tainted and the jobs are gone.”
Ramirez hopes that others can follow in the work saying, “Anything that we do that is good, no matter how small, is big.”