When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘ Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him .’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ ~ Matthew 1 :13-15
Friends in Christ, immigration is one of those divisive issues amongst goodnatured Catholics on both sides of the issue. With it being Respect Life Month, my intention this weekend is to clarify that it is very much a life issue, and why we as Catholics should be concerned about it.
The Scripture above is an important starting point for us when we begin to think about the issue of immigration. It reminds us that even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, experienced the same fears and dangers that many immigrants who are seeking refuge in the United States face today. It also is a reminder that this country began as an immigrant people. Most of us, if not all of us, are here because family who came before for us sought to better their lives by coming to the United States.
Just as Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus in order to seek refuge, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops explains that undocumented immigrants face similar difficulties in their home countries: “violence from war, lack of economic opportunity to earn a livable wage, or being deprived of basic human freedoms, these issues are the motivating force for why immigrants are willing to risk so much, to often times leave everything they have, and move to another country with unfamiliar customs and cultures … This is the migration of the desperate” (USCCB: Welcoming the Stranger Among US).
Why should we be concerned about this? As Catholics, everything that we believe about the human person, is centered around the Imago Dei, that is, that all of us are created in the Image of God: God created humanity in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them ~ Genesis 1:27. All peoples, no matter their race, country of origin, gender etc. are all endowed with the image of God. Thus all peoples have this human dignity and are members of the one Christian family, For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Thus, our concern for people extends to all peoples, especially those who face crises, whether here or abroad.
The United States Council of Catholic Bishops offers us the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” to guide us on our decision making regarding Immigration:
“The Gospel mandate to ‘welcome the stranger’ requires Catholics to care for and stand with newcomers, authorized and unauthorized, including unaccompanied immigrant children, refugees and asylumseekers, those unnecessarily detained, and victims of human trafficking.” Additionally, “comprehensive reform is necessary to fix…family reunification policies…refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration. The right and responsibility of nations to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law should be recognized but pursued in a just and humane manner. The detention of immigrants should be used to protect public safety and not for purposes of deterrence or punishment; alternatives to detention, including community-based programs, should be emphasized” (81).
To close, there are two key points to highlight from above. First, we do have a Christian duty to welcome the stranger among us, especially if there exists grave reasons for migration. At the same time, the Church recognizes both the need and duty of countries to control their borders in a humane way in order to protect the common good of the people.
My hope is that this article was both informative and challenging. As a Christian people, we must always be focused on protecting the dignity of human life. This article will not solve the issue, but I hope it at least is helpful as we open our hearts to the needs of people around us.