May 5, 2016

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Eight Catholic University students will pack up their dorms at the end of the academic year only to pack their bags for a two-week immersion trip to the United States-Mexico border to get a firsthand look at the complexity of the immigration experience from May 16 to 29.

The trip comes as the culmination of a class called "Migrants and Pilgrims: Immigration and the Roman Catholic Church in America," taught by Will Rainford, dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service, and Sister Ruth Harkins, I.H.M., associate campus minister for graduate and professional students.

According to Rainford, the course is intended to "provide students with a historical and contemporary overview of immigration in the United States, its causes, conditions, challenges, and contributions to society" and to understand the Catholic theological perspective and response to immigration.

"In this political season, much is said about people who immigrate to the United States," said Rainford. "While recognizing people have the right not to emigrate, and the U.S. has the right to secure borders and identify people who enter the U.S., vilification of immigrants is an affront to human dignity. The Catholic Church in the U.S. has a very strong, supportive, and embracing posture toward immigrants, especially families with children."

"Students at The Catholic University of America are studying the sociological, theological and spiritual aspects of immigration, both in the classroom and by immersing themselves in the lived experiences of families that have immigrated to Texas and New Mexico," added Rainford. "At the end of their course, students will be equipped to advocate on behalf of people who have immigrated and better serve them in the students' home communities and parishes.

The group will spend the first week of the trip in El Paso, Texas. Among other stops, the itinerary includes a tour with the Border Patrol, a visit to a detention center, a meeting with lawyers at the Federal Appeals Court, a visit to a daycare center, and a meeting with Bishop Mark Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso. The itinerary for the second week in Las Cruces, N.M., includes meetings with families, prayer with residents of downtrodden colonias (neighborhoods), a visit to Catholic Charities, and Mass with Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of Las Cruces.

The Catholic University of America will chronicle the immersion experience on Facebook ( and Twitter (@CatholicUniv).

MEDIA: To schedule an interview or attend this event, contact the Office of Marketing and Communications at or 202-319-5600.