Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

My First Week at the CCAO Migration Intern

June 11, 2013

  Michelle Villegas, CCAO Intern

It is hard to believe that I have only been in DC for a week. Time has really flown by with meetings, briefings, research and catching up with the DC fast-paced way of life. I have really hit the ground running with work on the comprehensive immigration reform bill coming up for a vote. The network of immigration reform advocates in DC and across the country is very exciting to be a part of because it reminds me that I am only a small part of a huge and important movement that is affecting millions of immigrants and families in our country.

For the past two years I have been pretty actively involved in the community organizing and education aspect of the immigration reform movement in Chicago, IL and Omaha, NE.  Opportunities such as teaching ESL at a Mayan community center and at a Southern Sudanese Refugee Center  have allowed me to work closely with immigrant communities and gain perspective on personal stories, struggles and realities.

My faith calls me to work on immigration reform. Catholic Social Teaching  calls us, as people of faith, to care for and be in solidarity with the most vulnerable in our communities and to work for justice and integrity of all people. These last two years have really fueled me with passion to continue working on the policies that will create the opportunities for undocumented immigrants to work and live legally and comfortably in the country we all call home.

This week I attended an immigration rally that the Asian American and Immigrant community put on. It was inspiring to see so many people of different backgrounds and faiths come out to support the dignity of immigrants and so loudly and clearly ask for a comprehensive immigration reform that will keep families together.

I also had the opportunity to attend a briefing on a report that focused on the health impacts of the immigration system on undocumented children and their families. The report findings are particularly pertinent to the current debate on immigration reform because it stated that “If deportations remain at 2012 levels, estimates of annual impacts include: poorer child health, poorer child behavioral outcomes, poorer educational outcomes, poorer adult health and shorter lifespan, higher rates of poverty, and diminished access to food.”

While the issue of immigration reform also has economic and national security impacts, it is important to remember that this legislation will impact many human lives, many of whom are children who are U.S. citizens. The report recommends direct, clear, expedient and affordable path to citizenship, which is what I am committed to working towards this summer and as long as it takes until we achieve it.