2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Although the Catholic Church has welcomed newcomers since the very founding of our nation, since 1965 alone MRS has assisted over 1 million refugees to begin new lives in the United States through its nationwide network of affiliated partner agencies.  In more recent years, MRS has greatly expanded its service network to respond to the plight of thousands of unaccompanied children and victims of human trafficking.  MRS has also been a leading advocate for fair and just policies, both nationally and internationally, that serve to protect and uphold the fundamental rights of migrants, immigrants, refugees, human trafficking victims, and other vulnerable persons on the move.  

Please join  us on November 19th, to help Migration and Refugee Services celebrate our 50th Anniversary!

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Plenary Panel [clear filter]
Thursday, November 19

9:30am EST

The MRS Refugee Program at 50

This panel will begin with a retrospective on MRS’ history of resettling refugees followed by analysis of contemporary and future issues facing refugees and the U.S. resettlement program. As refugee flows have shifted and new crises emerge, MRS and its national resettlement network have responded to the changing needs of the refugee arriving to the United States. This panel will explore how MRS resettlement affiliates have addressed issues locally and mobilized Catholic parish support to assist newly arriving refugees. Furthermore, the panel will touch upon current and anticipated issues facing our country as it prepares to aid the highest number of refugees in decades, due in part to the Syrian crisis.

avatar for Aden Batar

Aden Batar

Immigration and Refugee Resettlement Director, Catholic Community Services of Salt Lake City
Aden Batar currently serves as the Immigration and Refugee Resettlement Director for Catholic Community Services of Salt Lake City, UT.  As a Somali refugee himself, Batar has first hand experience with fleeing a country due to civil war and then going through the refugee resettlement... Read More →
avatar for Beth Ferris

Beth Ferris

Senior Fellow, Georgetown University
Beth Ferris is currently a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University.  Formerly she served as the co-director of the Brookings Project on Internal Displacement.  At Brookings she focused on the international community’s response to humanitarian crises, with a particular emphasis... Read More →
avatar for Simon Henshaw

Simon Henshaw

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
Mr. Henshaw is a career officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, currently serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. His previous assignment was Director of Andean Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere... Read More →
avatar for Fr. Rick Ryscavage, SJ

Fr. Rick Ryscavage, SJ

Director, Center for Faith and Public Life, Fairfield University
Father Ryscavage is a Professor of Sociology and International Studies Director at Fairfield University and Director of The Center for Faith and Public Life, which addresses public issues where politics and religion intersect. Father Ryscavage served as national director of the Jesuit... Read More →

Thursday November 19, 2015 9:30am - 11:00am EST
Grand Ballroom North Central

11:30am EST

Contemporary Issues in Immigration

While legislative and executive efforts towards comprehensive immigration reform have been stymied over the last few years, immigration detention has become the fasting growing incarceration system in the United States with nearly a half million people detained and incarcerated annually.  A new report by USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services and the Center for Migration Studies argues that the goals of immigration detention can be accomplished more humanely and at far less cost through a national infrastructure of community-based, supervised release programs.  This panel will explore the current state of efforts towards comprehensive immigration reform and immigration enforcement and detention in the United States.  It will highlight the Church’s position on the inherent issues, and consider varying government and policy perspectives on the issues.  Furthermore, the panel will address ways the Church and its agencies and partners might collaborate in advocacy and service efforts relative to providing alternatives to detention.   

avatar for Don Kerwin

Don Kerwin

Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies
Donald M. Kerwin, Jr. has directed the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) since September 2011.  He previously worked for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) between 1992 and 2008, serving as its Executive Director (ED) for 15 years and its interim ED... Read More →
avatar for Janet Murguia

Janet Murguia

CEO and President, National Council of La Raza
Janet Murguia is currently the CEO and President of the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States.  NCLR partners with Affiliates across the country to serve millions of Latinos in the areas of civic engagement, civil rights and... Read More →
avatar for Esther Olavarria

Esther Olavarria

Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, Esther Olavarria is a top legal adviser to Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson.  Prior to assuming her role at DHS, Secretary Olavarria was the Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress.  For ten... Read More →
avatar for Frank Sharry

Frank Sharry

Executive Director and Founder, America's Voice
Frank Sharry is Founder and Executive Director of America’s Voice. With the support of allies in the immigration reform community, he created the new organization in early 2008 to focus on communications and media as part of a renewed effort to win comprehensive immigration reform... Read More →

Thursday November 19, 2015 11:30am - 1:00pm EST
Grand Ballroom North Central

2:30pm EST

Looking Ahead to the Future: Unaccompanied Children and Families

This panel will explore the issues inherent in the migration of unaccompanied children, including the sociological factors that contributed to the phenomenon, particularly the influx of children from Central America to the United States.  It will highlight the impact on children and families and the ways that the Church and its partners responded and will offer varying perspectives on the government response.  Additionally, the panel will consider the possibilities for future flows, how to respond collaboratively, and what steps need to be taken now to enhance capacity to respond to future crises.   

avatar for Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ

Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ

Executive Director, Humanitarian Crisis Relief Center, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley
Sr. Norma is the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Diocese of Brownsville, TX. Under her leadership, Catholic Charities operates a respite center to meet the basic needs of migrants, mostly women and children, arriving in large numbers across the Southwest... Read More →
avatar for Ericka Santoyo Ramirez

Ericka Santoyo Ramirez

College Student
Ericka Santoyo Ramirez is currently a college student in Richmond, Virginia who came to the United States as an unaccompanied child from Honduras.  She was provided services by the Commonwealth Catholic Charities Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program in the Richmond Diocese.
avatar for C. Mario Russell

C. Mario Russell

Director, Immigrant and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York
Mario Russell is the Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.  He also teaches at the Refugee and Immigrant Rights Litigation Clinic at the St. John’s University School of Law and the New York Law School.  Additionally... Read More →
avatar for Wendy Young

Wendy Young

President, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
Wendy Young is the current President of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). Ms. Young brings extensive immigration policy experience to her role at KIND. Most recently, she served as Chief Counsel on Immigration Policy in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security... Read More →

Thursday November 19, 2015 2:30pm - 4:00pm EST
Grand Ballroom North Central