In Detroit, the non-US-born population is growing rapidly, as newcomers and new US citizens move to the area. Now, the Archdiocese of Detroit has created an immigration conference. The aim of the conference, held April 21, 2012, was to discuss local immigration issues and also to help create possible outreach programs and groups in each of the parishes of Detroit.
Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda, the youngest US bishop, stated before the conference that immigration is one of the important issues for the church. It is also an issue close to the Bishop’s heart, as he was born in Mexico and himself immigrated to the US.
The conference will be held in tandem with a local branch of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights & Reform. Organizers of the conference hope to reach the general public as well as immigrants in the area – anyone who wishes to learn more about immigration and about the church’s stance on immigration issues. Currently, the Catholic Church generally favors granting legal status to undocumented immigrants and in many cases the church is a place where newcomers turn to for help with immigration issues as well as other issues related to settling in the US.
The conference took place in Southwest Detroit, at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church and featured speakers from the church and from immigration advocacy groups. That church has a largely Latino congregation, which is in keeping with the trend across Detroit. According to the archdiocese, about 37% of Catholics in the area attending church are Latino. Since the later 1990s, this number has doubled. In addition, there are also now parishes in the archdiocese serving growing Korean, Albanian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Nigerian communities.
The church has always played an important part in immigrant’s lives. In fact, the earliest US settlers often came to the New World to escape religious persecution and often built churches soon after arriving. Today, as immigration becomes more complex immigrants turn to their churches for support and help. When immigrants face problems and discrimination, they can turn to the church for support and in some cases churches arrange advocacy and other forms of help through the community. In addition, churches provide an important link between the community and newcomers who hope to take part in their new communities – they provide a space for newcomers to meet local residents and to settle into a new life in the US. The conference at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church highlights the important link between churches and immigrant’s lives.