Welcome, Protect, Promote, and Integrate
Our nation has to undertake a comprehensive reform of its immigration laws and policies that will include addressing the issue of those in this country without legal status. Pope Francis, in “Fratelli Tutti,” makes it clear that this is a moral imperative.
Pope Francis is emphatic in declaring that we cannot embrace a culture of walls, physical, moral and spiritual, that deny human dignity and divide the human family. “…New walls are erected for self-preservation, the outside world ceases to exist and leaves only “my” world, to the point that others, no longer considered human beings possessed of an inalienable dignity, become only “them.” …We encounter ‘the temptation to build a culture of walls, to raise walls, walls in the heart, walls on the land, in order to prevent this encounter with other cultures, with other people.’” We are members of one family, brothers and sisters to each other. We cannot close our individual and collective hearts to our brothers and sisters who seek to migrate for reasons of economic necessity, threats to their personal security, or for reasons of political or religious persecution. To retreat behind walls of indifference, or outright hostility impoverishes us spiritually (as well as economically and culturally) and harms those whom we exclude.
Every nation has the moral obligation to protect its citizens, but that obligation has to be kept in balance with the moral obligation to provide assistance and acceptance to migrants. Unfortunately, some political leaders will exaggerate the threat that migrants pose to their country in order to gain and consolidate political power. “…In some host countries, migration causes fear and alarm, often fomented and exploited for political purposes. This can lead to a xenophobic mentality, as people close in on themselves, and it needs to be addressed decisively…Migrants are not seen as entitled like others to participate in the life of society, and it is forgotten that they possess the same intrinsic dignity as any person…For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable, since it sets certain political preferences above deep convictions of faith: the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love.”
“Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarized by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.” This is a challenging declaration by Pope Francis. Ideally, migration ought not to occur at all. More must be done by the international community to ensure that all nations have the resources to provide a dignified life for all their peoples. Until that happens, “…we are obliged to respect the right of all individuals to find a place that meets their basic needs and those of their families, and where they can find personal fulfillment.” Our responsibility, therefore, is to welcome migrants, protect them from harm, and promote their full integration into our societies. We should see ourselves as “undertaking a journey together, through these four actions, in order to build cities and countries that, while preserving their respective cultural and religious identity, are open to differences and know how to promote them in the spirit of human fraternity.” We must see migrants as a source of enrichment, not impoverishment.
It is easy to fear those who are different from us and the change to our settled way of life that they represent. It requires courage to recognize how those differences enrich us and make our way of life more vibrant. Now is the time for our nation to overcome our fear and offer welcome to those already here and to those still yearning for the opportunities our nation affords.
– Fr. Mark Hallinan, Associate Pastor