Since its inception in 1985 the Eugene M. Burke Lectureship on Religion and Society at UC San Diego has sponsored more than 70 public lectures in which scholars, theologians, and religious practitioners of various faiths address critical issues in the relationship between religion and society.
One such pressing issue is immigration. The first two decades of the 21st century have seen a sharp rise in the number of global refugees as individuals and families flee war, famine, disease, ethic and political strife, economic hardship, natural disasters, and the effects of climate change. As the number of asylum seekers and other immigrants grows, so too do calls in host countries to deny them entry. Here in the United States both legal and undocumented immigrants face an increasingly hostile political climate. In this installment of the Burke Lectureship two prominent religious leaders, Bishop Robert McElroy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego and Imam Taha Hassane of the Islamic Center of San Diego, discuss their respective faiths’ views on immigration while seeking to forge a common path forward.
Both men assert that immigration poses a moral challenge as well as a legal problem, citing the emphasis in both Christianity and Islam on fellowship and fair treatment of strangers. Imam Hassane stresses the importance of hospitality in Islamic tradition, while Bishop McElroy outlines the Catholic Church’s doctrines concerning social justice, especially as they pertain to the poor and the underprivileged. In both instances the Imam and the Bishop believe that giving aid to immigrants is a moral imperative that transcends political dogma. However, neither man is naïve; both understand the difficulties of preaching and implementing a faith-mandated moral course in the face of widespread popular opposition fueled by demagoguery.
How then to proceed? As Imam Hassane points out, the challenge is not merely to change men’s minds, but their hearts. To do less is to fail the moral test. Both the Imam and the Bishop believe that open, honest dialogue is key, not merely with fellow believers but those advocating opposing views, as well as with those in power who are in a position to effect change. Also vital to the effort are public expressions of solidarity with immigrants in the form of peaceful demonstrations, petition drives, and questioning of public officials and policies. The two religious leaders point out that a faith that is expressed only in words and not deeds is a thin faith at best.
Watch — The Bishop and the Imam: A Conversation on Immigration – Burke Lectureship on Religion and Society
Is immigration an overall benefit, or burden to society? That’s was the central question posed at the 2019 Arthur N. Rupe debate at UC Santa Barbara. Rubén Rumbaut, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at UC Irvine, takes the position that immigration is not only good, but necessary for the success of the United States. Taking the stance that immigration needs to be scaled back and tightly controlled is Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a controversial organization that has been designated an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The participants began by laying out their visions for the hallmarks of good immigration policy. Rumbaut leans heavily on the ideas that the population of the United States is aging, fewer children are being born, and our pension and social security systems will fall into crisis without an influx of new workers. Thus, he argues immigration is necessary to prop up those systems, strengthen the labor force, and repopulate shrinking towns across the country. Krikorian’s central idea is the polar opposite. He argues the United States is in good shape, and has no need for new immigration. Therefore, he says immigration policy should seek to have a net zero impact on the economy. He proposes updating the system to only accept immediate family members of current US citizens, and set the bar for skilled immigration to “Einstein” levels, meaning only people at the top of their fields.
Both debaters address several aspects of immigration policy, from big picture concepts like measuring success, to details such as how many people from any given group should be granted citizenship each year. While their differences of opinion are clear throughout the debate, they do find agreement on one issue: the current long-term population of undocumented immigrants in the United States should be granted amnesty.
With a topic as complex and divisive as immigration, it is not surprising to see more disagreement than agreement. But, finding some common ground is essential if any real progress is to be made. Whatever your stance, this debate provides some insight into the other side of the argument.
Watch — Immigration: A Boon or Burden to U.S. Society? – 2019 Arthur N. Rupe Great Debate
The criminal justice system’s impact on Latina and Latino people in Southern California and across the nation was the focus of the annual UCLA Law Review symposium at the UCLA School of Law. Featuring leading scholars and practitioners who work to uncover and combat the ways in which bias affects Latinx communities’ interactions with law enforcement, panelists addressed incarceration, policing, community organizing and criminal adjudication, plus related issues involving ethics and capital punishment.
UCLA Law professor emeritus Gerald López delivered the event’s keynote address. He captivated the crowd with reflections on his childhood in East Los Angeles in the 1950s, where he watched the criminal justice system target Latinx people — activity that, he noted, continues to this day.
“It left impressions on me that shape everything I do,” he said while encouraging budding attorneys and activists to continue his lifelong effort to respond to those challenges and “change the world.”
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