Inside USD

Giving Voice to the Voiceless

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thursday’s 17th annual Sister Sally Furay Lecture, titled, “For the Voices That Have Not Been Heard,” was a fitting tribute to Sister Sally Furay, the former student, professor, dean, provost, and ultimately vice president of the University of San Diego.

“Sister Sally Furay was our ultimate Renaissance woman,” said Kroc School of Peace Studies Dean Edward Luck.

The evening began with a screening of this year’s Oscar-winning documentary “Inocente.”  Carmen Chavez, Esq., the executive director of Casa Cornelia Law Center and the keynote speaker of the 2010 Furay lecture, introduced the emotional film. “Immigration is part of the fabric of our nation,” said Chavez, “but these immigrants are labeled as faceless.”

The film revolves around Inocente, a brilliant 15-year-old artist and a homeless, undocumented girl living in San Diego. Her mother gave birth to her at age 15 and they have been down on their luck since leaving an abusive home years before. The film chronicles Inocente’s first solo art show and her opportunity to take a step toward her own future.

Dean Luck said this kind of film “reminds us of the importance of individuals.”

Congressman Juan Vargas ‘83, the evening’s keynote speaker, is California’s Representative of the 51st Congressional District that covers the entirety of California’s border with Mexico. He is a USD alumnus and graduated Harvard Law in 1991, where he met and befriended a young President Obama.

Vargas believes now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform. He has spent extensive time speaking to both Democrats and Republicans in Congress pushing for reform to make undocumented immigrants less scared of the American legal system.

One of Vargas’ most recent personal wins came with the backing of his bill from one of the highest profile members of Congress, Representative Paul Ryan, former Republican vice presidential nominee. Congressman Vargas said, “He’s out there promoting it [immigration reform],” and with a vote like that he feels confident he will achieve great change.

A first step in achieving change, according to Vargas, is his newly proposed human trafficking law, H.R. 1690 or “Hazel’s Law.” As it stands, it must be proven that human traffickers had knowledge of the age of their victims to be prosecuted for child trafficking crimes. Hazel’s Law would see them convicted of child trafficking regardless of prior knowledge. Congressman Vargas said, “We’ve humanized the families, and at the end of the day, ourselves.”

Congressman Vargas was followed by a panel discussion.

In focusing on child protection, the Sister Sally Furay Lecture gave a voice and a face to the victims of cross border trafficking and undocumented Americans.

— Kevin Wright ‘13

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