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Embassy Town Hall Dialogue Draws Attention to the Global Integration of Migrants


On March 8, 2012, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See hosted three noted experts to discuss both the challenges and opportunities posed by integrating migrants from diverse into receiving countries.  Ambassador Diaz moderated a lively discussion between 160 audience participants and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, and Demetrios Papademetriou, President and Co-Founder of the Migration Policy Institute.  The presentations provided a jumping-off point for a wide-ranging discussion among Holy See officials, diplomats, journalists, NGO representatives, university students and members of the public on migration topics including rights, legal status, the U.S. model for integration and the challenges posed to countries receiving migrants. 

The President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, proposed three models on migration prevalent in contemporary society: the “refusal” of the migrant by members of the receiving society; a static model of multiculturalism, in which migrant cultures remain distinct and separate within the receiving country; and “interculturalism” - in which cultures retain their values in a relational position with the other.  Ravasi said this third model required a well-developed sense of self-identity unthreatened by diversity. 

An essential human right according to Archbishop Silvano Tomasi is the right to not have to migrate.  Archbishop Tomasi said “imbalances” forced people to leave their home countries in a search for economic and personal security.   Key issues associated with migration, he said, were security, integration and development.  Archbishop Tomasi observed that migration impacts  labor, wages, and national security and leads to reflection on national and societal values in receiving states.  He said the State needs to respect religion, but migrants also cannot impose their particular way of life on their new country.  Regarding the Catholic Church, Archbishop Tomasi said the Holy See gets involved in migration issues because it can contribute an ethical dimension that keeps the human person “front and center.” 

Demetrios Papademetriou, President of the Migration Policy Institute, said migrant groups, had, until the current economic crisis, the same labor statistics as “resident” Americans, (around 5 % unemployment).  Like his fellow speakers, he saw migration posing challenges but also opportunities.  Non-discrimination laws have brought a level playing field for migrant access to the labor market and thus integration into American society.   Papademetriou said societies need to create environments in which migrants could succeed.  Migration is a fact of life that will happen regardless of opinions about it, so it should be orderly.

“Building Bridges of Opportunity: Migration and Diversity” was a valuable opportunity to bring together key migration experts from the Holy See and the United States to interact with an engaged public on a timely subject.  This was the first in a series on migration the Embassy will host. Please check back on this site to participate in further events focused on migration later this Spring.