2016 Fellin Lecture Tells “Story” of Immigration | Benedictine College

Fellin Lecture Tells “Story” of Immigration

Published: Monday, September 26, 2016

Dr. Ellen Boegel Delivers the Fellin Lecture

Through a series of stories and analogies, Ellen K. Boegel, J.D., a lawyer, author and associate professor in the Division of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies and Homeland Security at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, provided a look at immigration through the years. The speaker for the 20th Annual Mary L. Fellin Lecture series, Boegel described various aspects of immigration, including refugees, citizenship status, government limits and reasons for immigration. The Fellin Lecture is sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery and is presented each year at Benedictine College from a female perspective and in support of the Liberal Arts orientation of the college.

“Immigration laws give order to madness,” she said. “But it’s a broken system. There are over 11 million unauthorized people in the United States alone. So what do we do? How do we decide who we will help and who will be left out? Like Prohibition, a law that didn’t work, we need to change the law.”

Boegel said there are more than 65 million refugees in the world, and only 21.3 million fit the legal, United Nations definition of refugee, which leaves the vast majority to work outside legal immigration methods. She said the definition dates back to 1948 and allows people to seek and receive refuge from discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. Economic and environmental refugees, she said, are completely left out of the legal definition.

“We need to look and see how many refugees we (the United States) can take,” she said. “How big can the country be? How closed do we want to be?”

Boegel pointed to the value of citizenship and said the most important privilege it provides is the right to vote. She said that is where everyone can make a difference. People can vote to change the law.

“The next story is your story and where you will take it from here,” she concluded. “Are we the people who will reach out to people in need, or will we turn and hide? Are we going to live up to the ideal that are written on the Statue of Liberty? That’s your story.”

Boegel was a member of the George Washington Law Review from 1982 to 1984 and received her law degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 1984. In addition to her teaching duties, she is currently a licensed lawyer in New York and serves as an attorney panelist on the state’s Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs’ Surrogate Decision-Making Committee and volunteers with the New York Legal Assistance Group’s mobile legal clinic. In 2014, the Catholic Press Association awarded her First Place, Best Coverage of Marriage, for her article on the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decisions. She is a regular columnist in America magazine and has had articles published in numerous other magazines, journals and websites.

Past lectures in the Fellin series have included “Common Ground, Uncommon Excellence” by Dr. Carolyn Woo, president & CEO of Catholic Relief Services; “Soul Food: Kansas Nuns Teach Journalist to Sit Still, Be Quiet, and Find Home” by Judith Valente; “Responsibility of the Artist in View of 9/11” by Sister Diane Couture, SSJ; “Benedict, Francis and Thomas: Contributions to Environmental Ethics from a Catholic, Christian Perspective” by James Schaefer; “Dialogue of Hope: The Future of Catholic Relations with Muslims” by Sandra Keating; and “Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible” by S. Mary Irene Nowell, OSB.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.