The Academy joins the Vatican’s 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees

By September 29, 2020Featured, News

The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy of the LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights was proud to join the Holy Father Pope Francis for the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees for 2020.  This year’s theme, “Forced like Jesus Christ to Flee,” focused on welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating vulnerable people on the move, including the 79.5 Million forcibly displaced worldwide.  Forced out of their homes, livelihoods, villages and cities and internally displaced, people on the move due to poverty, conflict and various humanitarian emergencies, because of weather and more aggravating circumstances of climate change, or other desperate situations are particularly vulnerable to exploitation of all sorts, including human trafficking.

The event series was designed to focus on the four actions presented in Pastoral Orientations on Internally Displaced PeopleWelcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate in furtherance of this year’s theme of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development at the Vatican.

“The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy and the LL.M./ J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights continue to lead on the issues that touch the lives of the most vulnerable in our human family, in worldwide solidarity. We encourage the local and global community, all people of good will: to know in order to understand, to be close in order to serve, to listen in order to be reconciled, to share in order to grow, to be involved in order to promote, and to cooperate in order to build, as the Holy Father urges us to do,” said the Academy’s Founder and Director, Prof. Dr. Roza Pati, former member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Welcome:  The series opened with Welcoming People on the Move:  Our Moral Calling to Serve the Most Vulnerable.  Moderated by Dr. Roza Pati, the distinguished panel explored the transformation of local paradigms from rejection to welcoming of the stranger.  Myriam Mézadieu, Chief Operating Officer of the Catholic Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami, and co-founder the G.W.L. Legal Project, which subsequently was restructured as the CLS, shared about her lifelong work to serving the immigrant community in South Florida, and her efforts with the internally displaced people in Haiti, caused by the 2010 earthquake, as well as her work with thousands of Haitian refugees.

Prof. Dr. Siegfried Wiessner, Founder and Director of the Intercultural Human Rights Program at St. Thomas University School of Law, discussed the impact of the Syrian conflict and the differential reactions in Europe. He also shared his experience in contributing to the development of standards regarding the due process rights of asylum seekers through a novel interpretation of the country’s constitution in the 1980s, which was, in essence, adopted by the country’s Federal Constitutional Court.

Lastly, Thear Suzuki, a Presidential Leadership Scholar and Americas Advisory Talent Leader at Ernst & Young, shared her powerful story of fleeing the Cambodian genocide as a refugee after her family was forced to spend four years in a Khmer Rouge labor camp.  Ms. Suzuki also honored the impact of those who welcomed her family and helped them rebuild their lives in the United States, including their sponsor, U.S. Catholic Conference Migration & Refugee Services.

Protect:  The Academy partnered with the Immigration Law Student Association to offer From Crisis to Crossroads: Protections in Law for Migrants and Refugees, an event focused on various forms of protections in law for migrants and refugees, including those that protect against human trafficking.  The panel of distinguished attorneys was moderated by Minglu Michele Guo, a St. Thomas law student and Graduate Fellow of the Academy.  Prof. Michael S. Vastine, Director of the Immigration Clinic at St. Thomas University School of Law, discussed immigration policy and the difficulties that victims of a violent crime, including human trafficking, may face during the application process.  Ignacio J. Vázquez Jr., Chief of the Special Prosecutions Section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office SDFL, focused on his work in effectively prosecuting the crimes of human trafficking and human smuggling, as well as the challenges faced by victims of human trafficking in the process of survival.  Johanna Oliver Rousseaux, a Presidential Leadership Scholar, president of Americans for Immigrant Justice, and attorney with Jones Day, inspired attendees with her experiences providing pro bono services to refugees and asylum seekers in U.S. detention facilities, and highlighted the need for, as well as the rewarding experience of the pro-bono work to benefit the most vulnerable in the community.

Promote:  The Academy was proud to cooperate with U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services and SHEPHERD (Stop Human Trafficking and Exploitation. Protect, Help, Empower, and Restore Dignity) on Promoting the Well-Being of Migrants and Survivors of Human Trafficking: The Role of Local, Community, and Faith-Based Organizations.  “Migration is as old as civilization and has enriched our world tremendously creating nations and bringing cultural differentiation throughout the globe.  Our Academy hones in on the issue of human trafficking, but there is certainly an intersection between migration, refugees, and human trafficking,” said Rev. Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale, Chair of the International Council on Human Trafficking and president emeritus of St. Thomas University, in his opening remarks.  The national panel was moderated and spearheaded by Lisa Lungren, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s National Education and Outreach Coordinator of Immigration and Anti-Trafficking.  Presenters who champion this work in their respective communities included Mary Anne Silvestri, Co-founder of Esther Ministry; Dr. Shima Rostami, Executive Director of Gateway Human Trafficking and Professor of Sociology at University of Missouri; Susan Patterson of SoCal Faith Coalitions Against Human Trafficking, and Jordan Bruxvoot, Founder and Director of The Naomi Project.

IntegrateThe event series concluded on September 27, the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, with a Reflection and Prayer Mass celebrated by Father Rafael Capó, Vice President of Mission at St. Thomas University. Participants from various countries and of multiple different faiths came together to reflect and pray for host communities, migrants, and survivors of human trafficking.

The Academy thanks the hundreds of academics, students, faith-based, and public and private actors from across the nation who joined with us to turn the tide in this most important battle for human dignity for all.