WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the ongoing discussions surrounding immigration, part of the solution must involve looking at the factors that drive people to leave their homes in the first place, said the vice president of an international Catholic aid group.
“What we would like is more attention to addressing why people flee,” said Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services.
O’Keefe spoke with CNA about the motives behind immigration to the United States, and how Catholic Relief Services is working to address these root causes.
“There’s a range of reasons why people migrate from different parts of the world, but in summary: conflict, persecution, climate change, and extreme poverty are the principal drivers that we see.”
For example, he said, “you have people who are refugees or want to claim asylum in the United States because of persecution and violence.”
These refugees – such as those trying to escape religious persecution in the Middle East, civil war in parts of Africa, or gang violence in Central America – are really “forced migrants,” he said.
“Their lives are at risk. They flee when they determine that staying would be a death sentence.”
By Michelle La Rosa for CRUX
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There are also migrants who come to the United States “to live a better life,” often because they have no future or way to escape extreme poverty in their home country, O’Keefe continued.