WASHINGTON (CNS) — Members of the media offered their perspectives on migration in the modern world during the 2014 National Migration Conference in Washington.

Highlighting ways that the Catholic Church serves migrant populations around the world, a panel of journalists encouraged Catholic and other advocates July 9 to continue fighting for immigration reform and increased services for migrants and refugees in the U.S.

Francis X. Rocca, the Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service, described how Pope Francis’ experience as the son and grandson of immigrants can inspire religious people worldwide.


“It should not be surprising that this pope would have made the issue of migration a priority because of his background and closeness to the immigrant’s experience,” Rocca said. “He has made this issue his own, whether it’s talking about the individuals carrying migrants across the Mediterranean in boats or the coyotes or the human trafficking trade. That’s where Francis’ real contribution on migration issues has been and will continue to be.”

Ana Navarro, a political contributor at CNN and CNN en Espanol, explained the perspective that religious groups offer to the global conversation regarding these issues.

“I think the Catholic Church and other religious groups have a very unique niche and mantle, which is the moral, the spiritual platform,” Navarro said. “You are not an interest group. You are not doing this because it’s good for your pockets or because it’s good for your bottom line. You’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s the thing our religion calls us to do.”

Recognizing that church members are deeply influenced by local priests and deacons, Fernando Pizarro, the Washington affiliates correspondent for the Univision Television Group, encouraged religious leaders to continue to “demand” congressional action and lead their parishioners to “call for” justice.

Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice, emphasized the importance of meeting with congressional leaders to illuminate these issues with personal narratives.

“I think if there’s an opportunity to touch some souls about the common humanity of immigrants and the gifts and blessings that they offer us that’s a very powerful message,” Sharry said. “I don’t care about all the tactics and politics — this is about an idea whose time has come. These are people who are being treated as the ‘other’ in our society when they should be treated as us and it’s time for our law to catch up to that reality. I just think that simple powerful message is one that ultimately will get us across the finish line.”

Although the panelists all agreed that concrete legislative action should not be expected for a few years, Sharry remained optimistic as he emphasized the power of presidential executive action and the inevitability of immigration reform.

“In politics, often you have to win the argument before you win legislation and I believe we’ve won the argument,” Sharry said. “We’re winning by speaking to the moral gravity of the dysfunctional status quo and emphasizing the moral imperative of these issues. The power that we all have built up will translate into some measure of justice for some significant number of people as soon as this fall.”