Br. Ken Homan, a theology teacher at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, argued that climate change is not just an environmental justice issue but is also a racial justice issue and poverty issue as well.
"Here in the United States, African-Americans are 300 percent more likely to die of asthma because of the places they are forced to live, they are in environmental degradation," Homan asserted, citing National Institute of Health statistics. "It is also related to poverty. Those who are most affected by climate change by environmental degradation, by fracking, by coal mining, by logging, they are the poor. They are the destitute. It is our vocation and God's call demanding us that we care for our brothers and sisters. That is what it means to be a part of the community."
The activists, many of whom were immigrants, also called on legislators to oppose legislation that would deport hard-working immigrants who are vital to their local communities. The participants asked legislators take a more reasonable approach to immigration reform.
"I think some of the specifics are a pathway to citizenship for the over 11 million people in our country that are living in the shadows of society and are contributing to our communities and our economy," Christopher Kerr, executive director of Ignatian Solidarity Network, told CP. "We want to make sure the dignity of workers are protected, that young people have access to higher education and that also, we protect vulnerable people, especially women."
Many activists made the argument that the United States' own foreign policy in Central America is a large contributor to the nation's immigration problem.
Dan Curtin, another student from Saint Louis University, told CP that the U.S. policy of sending money to corrupt governments in Central America and the training of soldiers at the School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia to fight drug cartels has only made human rights conditions worse for people in Mexico.
"One thing we need is transparency for U.S. citizens, so we know what our tax dollars are going towards. A lot of that money is going to the militarization, which is only a band-aid solution and doesn't actually fix the root of the problem," Curtin said. "We need to be putting our appropriations into proactive efforts that will help rebuild corruptive systems in Central America and in our own government, instead of doing these more reactive efforts that are band-aid approaches to these problems that are much deeper and goes much farther in history."
"Even down to Nixon to when he started the War on Drugs and all the drug cartels moved down from Columbia into Mexico, we are trying to fight that with more militarization, but the interesting thing is that is our fault," Curtin continued. "We are putting Mexico citizens on the line when it is not our call to make."