Immigration has become, unfortunately, a hot-button issue in our nation. Too often we are being pulled by the zealous right and left by the news media who tends to focus on those ends of the spectrum instead of telling a fuller story. It’s a very, very complex issue that can’t be summarized in a column lie this. But let me try to give a basic overview. So, what’s a Catholic to do in this maze and mess of a controversial issue?
In the first place, we have to understand the “moral imperative” according to the Christian Gospel. Love one another as I have loved you, are the words of Jesus in John 13:34. It’s the Christian way of summing up the “Golden Rule” – Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you (which can be found in Matt 7:13 and Luke 6:31). So, it all begins with love — an unselfish love that is self-giving, not self-seeking, just as Christ modeled on the Cross.
In regards to immigration, and where this principle gets misinterpreted, is in a belief that the Catholic Church wants so-called “open borders.” That’s not the case. We do want people to be treated with dignity and respect; we are hopeful that as a nation of immigrants there would also be an openness to those of other nations and cultures to be admitted to our country if – and this is the important “if” – we have a reasonable certitude that they will be productive citizens.
In his Address to a Joint Session of Congress on September 24, 2015, Pope Francis stated:
Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.
Those last words of our Holy Father are most important. When we create and attitude indifference or when we just don’t want to be bothered, there can be a tendency to move the problem on as fast and as quick as possible. Love and a moral response to the challenge of immigration must involve solutions that first seek to respect and reverence the human person while, only in a secondary way (but still an important way), also assure the safety and security of our nation and its citizens.