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What to Do When Pope Francis Trumpets Immigration and Aliens

February 23, AD2016

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With the cacophony of opinions clashing on the Donald Trump-Pope Francis cyber conversation, another voice is hardly necessary. But since I haven’t read too many immigrants or immigration lawyers voices in the Catholic blogosphere, I won’t hesitate to regale you with my take-away from the controversy.

The broiling issue of immigration is one to which I am convicted and affected. Like most aliens (before the days of political correctness, that’s what immigrants were called), I moved to the United States with a dream.  I entered with proper documents and waited my turn at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.  As did most of your ancestors and my children’s paternal ancestors.

When I recall skimming my hands down the list of last names of arriving passengers at Ellis Island, I remember the American immigrant saints like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Francis Cabrini and Blessed Francis Seelos. They must empathize with the unique experience of living as a stranger between two cultures, becoming a missionary for the Church, and laboring toward a shared dream.

I am profoundly grateful that America, in her generosity, took me in.  The more I learn about American history, the more I marvel at the great and noble men who shaped this country and our God who blessed it abundantly.

During the years I practiced, I met countless of immigrants who crossed the border illegally. The situation in their countries of origin is unlike my sheltered middle-class background. Theirs is far from ideal, which explains why they risked lives in crossing the deserts of Nogales or Tijuana, entrusting their future to “coyotes”. Toilet-less huts without running water, sleeping on dirt floors, neighborhood armed conflict, rebel and drug wars uncontrolled by local police, religious and political persecution, war-torn refugee camps, sex slavery are some real life testimonies I’ve heard. They hoped a life of toil in America harvesting potatoes, constructing high rises, driving school buses, bussing tables, cleaning apartments, teaching in classrooms or nursing patients, would secure their children’s future.

If you heard their before and after stories like I did, you might have gotten emotional when Pope Francis emphasized during his last visit in his address to Congress, “We must not be taken aback by the [refugees] 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.” I felt the same surge of emotion when a client hugged me after successfully processing an inter-country adoption and a naturalization ceremony.

The Catholic Social Teaching on immigration encourages us to welcome the stranger among us, “for in this encounter with the immigrant and the refugee in our midst, we encounter Christ.” Among the five principles outlined from the teachings, two key polarizing principles surface:

“When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive… The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth.”

Seeing Jesus in the innocent immigrant, migrant or refugee was one of the better moments of my career.   Admittedly, it was not always easy to recognize Jesus in disguise.  There were a handful of foreign-born individuals  who were inadmissible (or deportable) by law. Under U.S. Code Sec 1182, an immigrant must not have been convicted with essential elements of a crime of moral turpitude, or other degrees of involvement in money laundering, violation of a drug laws, prostitution, human trafficking offenses, terrorist activities, and other crimes that Donald Trump rightly believes make an immigrant a questionably upstanding member of society.

As with all laws, current immigration laws can stand to be tweaked and improvised. The details of those I will leave to the American immigration lawyers association  (AILA) to recommend and for Congress to debate. I don’t have all the solutions and I am not a politician called to implement policies. But I strive to do three things from where I am as a Catholic trying to live out my religion and politics in an imperfect world. So can you:

First, read and react responsibly. This means never taking the secular media news about Pope Francis at face value. Research on reliable sources, wait for them to emerge and place so-called quotes within the proper context before reacting.  Educate or re-educate yourself on the actual Church teaching at issue. Understanding the Church’s position on immigration concerns the plight of developing countries and the God-given right of all people to “to conditions worthy of human life and if these conditions are not present, the right to migrate.” (Exsul Familia). In the encyclical Pacem in Terris, St. Pope John Paul II wrote, “When there are just reasons for it, [human beings] have the right to emigrate to other countries.” Immigration can be reconciled with the right of nations to protect its citizens from harm and provided that “the public wealth does not forbid this.” Discuss the issues (not the personalities) with kindness.

Two, be welcoming to immigrants as the Church challenges you. Scripture says, “You must be merciful to the alien for you were strangers yourselves. (Deut 10:19)” Reach out to the cultural minorities in your parish or workplace. Who doesn’t ever appreciate a welcome mat extended? Listen to our stories, sample our culture and teach us some of yours. We’ll both be richer from building bridges; its almost like traveling, minus the airfare.

Three, be charitable to citizens of developing countries. Factor into your budget donations to grassroots organizations for developing countries. Forego getting that brand new RV or boat or cut your wardrobe size to half. You don’t have to get the latest i-phone or flat screen TV. Consuming less means more sacrifices, but freeing up your resources to share.   Five dollars goes a long way in Haiti.  If you and I helped needy people in developing countries more, they won’t need to cross the border. They will be free to dream big dreams in their homeland.

Its for good reason that the Old and New Testaments make special mention to befriend and be merciful to strangers.  The Israelites were aliens and Jesus was a refugee, so its not a far stretch to grasp Our Lord’s own teaching, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Anabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic, non-practicing attorney, learning homeschooler, penniless novelist (of Catholic novels “Written in the Sand and Stars” & “Fireflies Dance”), and unpredictable blogger at Written By the Finger of God.

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  • kirrwed

    On the issue of immigration, much of Church social teaching seems to be written with a certain presumption as to the earnestness of the immigrant. This is a fair principle. But it should not eliminate what is also taught in Scripture about ill-intentioned persons:

    Sirach 11:29-34 Do not bring every man into your home, for many are the wiles of the crafty. Like a decoy partridge in a cage, so is the mind of a proud man, and like a spy he observes your weakness; for he lies in wait, turning good into evil, and to worthy actions he will attach blame. From a spark of fire come many burning coals, and a sinner lies in wait to shed blood. Beware of a scoundrel, for he devises evil, lest he give you a lasting blemish. Receive a stranger into your home and he will upset you with commotion, and will estrange you from your family.

  • Michael Siddle

    How do we reconcile our obligation as Christians to welcome refugees with those who follow Islam. Islam, which means submission and demands a theocracy also demands that it its followers copy the life of Muhammad in every detail, as the perfect man. Muhammad was thoroughly evil, as any study of his life makes abundantly clear, a fact that Muslims seem blind to. Is it an obligation for Christians to welcome refugees who are pledged to destroy Christianity and all other religions? I would be interested on the views of the Church on this issue as it is a genuine concern for many.

  • Dan Ruf in indiana

    We deceive ourselves when the main reason is economic and violates the 7TH. Full bellies and empty souls. I would suggest reading AB Fulton Sheen Life of Christ.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Little-known fact: the large majority of illegal aliens infiltrating the US from Latin America are not poor and desperate. They have higher than average incomes in the communities they abandoned.

    This stands to reason, ‘coyotes’ don’t work for free.

  • adrienne

    “When I recall skimming my hands down the list of last names of arriving passengers at Ellis Island, I remember the American immigrant saints like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Francis Cabrini and Blessed Francis Seelos.”

    Not correct. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was not an immigrant. Rather, she was the first native-born American saint.

    She might have been treated like an immigrant by her New York Presbyterian relatives when she returned from a visit to Italy after her husband died and she soon converted to Catholicism. She was, in fact, disinherited for that. But this is not the same thing as you wrote.

  • Jim the Scott

    Morally I should help the poor but not too the point of endangering myself. I feel for the homeless in my area but I can’t endanger my family letting them stay in my house willy nilly. Thus reasonably a case can be made we are not obligated to take in every refugee.

    OTOH if a lifeguard is trying to save a drowning man and a wave comes to throw him and his charge against a pier what should he do? Use his body to take the hit and buffer his charge? No, because if he passes out then they both drown. In that case he would use his charge as a cushion against hitting the pier. If we have an open board and take in every refugee and put them on welfare we will collapse our economy then how will these people be better off and where do we flee too?

    The Pope is correct in that we have a moral obligation to help before God but how we do so is a matter of prudent judgment and I reject the Pope’s judgment in this area but I don’t think I am bound to it becasue there is likely a better way.

  • Elijah fan

    Excellent writing but could have omitted the reference to the Pope. I like Pope Francis’ heart. His mind has problems that context doesn’t solve many times like Sunday when he stated in his speech to stop the death penalty worldwide that the 5th commandment forbids killing the guilty in addition to killing the innocent. Bible basics went out the window at that moment. The same Trinity that mandated the fifth commandment also mandated over thirty death penalties to the audience to whom He was giving the ten commandments. Christ refers the pharisees to the one law that executes those who curse their parents…as the “word of God”.
    Central America has no working death penalty for murder and has a murder rate 30 times that of death penalty China and 90 times greater than death penalty Japan. That’s partly why largely Central Americans are fleeing to the US which has a murder rate that is six times lower than Central America except in the US ghetto areas whose murder rate is identical to Central America. The lack of a death penalty from Brazil to Mexico is part of the reason immigrants are fleeing to safer US lands. Catholic countries in northern Latin America are the most murderous in the world. Three Popes in a row now have contributed in good but faulty conscience to the long run future murder of many poor people in northern Latin America by affirming its previous lack of a death penalty. Check UN figures on world homicide. Northern Latin America is the most murderous large area of the world and East Asia is the safest. Europe with no death penalty is second safest because like death penalty Japan…Europe is mostly middle class and middle class rarely murder with or without the death penalty. But poor dominated countries are another story. That is where murder rates are highest…n. Latin America and Africa…if there are few death penalties. Several hundred Popes knew that after Romans 13:4 was made canonical after several centuries. Piux XII reiterated it in 1952.
    These last three Popes talked of their love of immigrants but in the long run their regression on the death penalty will eventually be seen as a cause of poor people fleeing inept Catholic countries.

    • adam aquinas

      Your statistics which you present prove nothing…there is no scientific correlation. There is so much more involved in the morality of the death penalty than comparing rates of murder between countries without and with the death penalty….mostly cultural.
      Let’s look at the US: Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime anymore than long prison sentences. Moreover, states without the death penalty have much lower murder rates. The South accounts for more than 80% of US executions and has the highest regional murder rate.
      Here is an excellent link as to why the death penalty is immoral and I agree with the Pope. You need to do your research and examination in a more methodical fashion and consider all factors other than selected country comparisons.

      https://death.rdsecure.org/section.php?id=13

    • Elijah fan

      Actually the US Supreme Court disagrees with you and a hundred links on the internet that you can muster. That Court stopped the death penalty in 1972 in order to study competing death penalty stats and theories for four years. While you looked quickly at sounthern states, the Court knew that post slavery culture in the south made poverty and murder far more likely there than in Connecticut…a factoid you flew past with your wing suit. In 1976 after four years of reading both your school of thought ( usually lawyers and sociologists) and the opposite school of thought ( currently economics people using regressional analysis) the Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 as being a deterrent even though in the US the appeals time of c. ten years inhibits its deterrence.
      God in the Pentateuch wanted the sentence carried out immediately…very much like China. You know God right….the one who protected Cain from vigilantes prior to His giving all men a death penalty for murder in Gen.9:5-6 when He began governments in Genesis10:8. John Paul missed entirely that the same God who protected Cain, gave a death penalty just a little later. A Cardinal in the CDF office noticed John Paul’s mistake and deliberately created an article ccc #2260 wherein that Cardinal tried to ameliorate the mistake that was ensconced by another Cardinal in ccc # 2267.
      US death penalties with ten years of appeals is why the US murder rate is five times higher than China….in part. Yet the Court after four years of comparing deterrence studies, noted that even still…it deters…and they themselves had stopped that deterrence for four years thanks to links like yours. Oi veh.

    • Jim the Scott

      Of course the ancient Rabbis taught a Court that sentenced more than one person to death per 70 years was considered murderous yet in principle they upheld the death penalty.

      Thus the idea held by the last three Popes that God technically allows the death penalty but prefers it not be done has some president,

      Mind you I am pro-Death penalty but I don’t presume to tell the Pope what to do here.

    • Elijah fan

      The internet is full of tales about how infrequently the Jews executed. Rubbish. Such revisionism is contradicted by two incidents wherein Christ was lethally attacked but passed through their hands miraculously ( one involving stoning at the temple which technically was roughly in line with the Pentateuchal command to stone dreamers) and Stephen was stoned with Paul holding coats as though it was ordinary with no fear of Roman repercussions. And then there’s the adultress brought before Christ. Four incidents in a short space of the first century….but they never happened according to internet lore.

    • Jim the Scott

      >The internet is full of tales about how infrequently the Jews executed. Rubbish. Such revisionism is contradicted by three incidents wherein Christ was lethally attacked but passed through their hands miraculously…etc.

      Such a response on your part is about as intelligent & relevant an objection as citing the Church Fathers on how Christians are to have love for one’s fellow man & then listening to the boring Atheist rant about the Spanish Inquisition & or the slaughter of Jews during the Crusades by Christians. I was talking about the formal moral teachings of the Rabbis, which like Christian teaching is an ideal & I am not claiming either Jews or Christians or Freemasons or whatever have never sinned or gone against their religion.

      Here is a penny buddy go buy a clue.

    • Elijah fan

      You have no idea what you just stepped in. Saul/ Paul was the ideal and blameless and considered zealous for being a persecutor as the scripture just told you. Pacifism as to the OT death penalties was the ideal of no one….except post 70AD Jews who no longer had the power to execute anyone…the source of your rabbi tales.
      There is nothing laudatory at all in what you’re calling the formal teaching of the rabbis. You’re implying that their fictional failing to implement the over thirty death penalties from God to them ….was a good thing. LOL. Not prior to Christ. Saul was removed from the kingship of Israel by God through Samuel precisely because he failed to kill Agag as mandated by God. God gave the death penalties of the Pentateuch because men were without sanctifying grace which Christ later brought; satan was not yet reduced in power by Christ; and Christ was not yet drawing all men to Himself. Ergo…men needed great threats from God just to avoid sins like adultery. They needed great threats to simply be decent prior to Christ bringing those three improvements. Ergo to not implement the Old Testament death penalties for mortal sin was not civilized…it was detrimental to salvation in its pre Christ context. Lol…there is nothing ideal about frustrating those penalties until Christ does so because He as God is ending them. He stops them in the incident with the adultress woman since these men were supposed to have brought the man also but did not. Christ then writes the name of each man in the dirt and a secret sin of each man…that is why they leave one by one in order of age. Prior to Christ doing that, they were mandatory as the ideal…not as a failure morally.

    • Jim the Scott

      >You have no idea what you just stepped in. Saul/ Paul was the ideal and blameless and considered zealous for being a persecutor as the scripture just told you. Pacifism as to the OT death penalties was the ideal of no one….except post 70AD Jews who no longer had the power to execute anyone…the source of your rabbi tales.

      Hey Nimrod if you want to claim the anti-death pentalty teachings of the Rabbis is post Temple that is fine but what that has to do with your out of left field screed against Jews just tells me you have some kneejerk hatred and hostility towards them & that is a spiritual sickness and is just plain Un-Christian. Go pedal that neo-Marcionite crap with the nutters who follow Bishop Williamson or E. Michael Jones and spare decent people from having to hear it!

      >There is nothing laudatory at all in what you’re calling the formal teaching of the rabbis. You’re implying that their fictional failing to implement the over thirty death penalties from God to them ….was a good thing. LOL.

      Except these teachings might not be post Temple and Jesus did say of the Pharasees that they “Sat in the Chair of Moses & to do as they say but not follow their example”. So the idea God allows the death penalty but prefers it not be done has some merit in Pre-Christian Jewish religious tradition. That is all I said and to continue to behave like a jackarse with this sick hostility to Jews which I find offensive well…you have no idea who you just stepped too.

      >Not prior to Christ. Saul was removed from the kingship of Israel by God through Samuel precisely because he failed to kill Agag as mandated by God. God gave the death penalties of the Pentateuch because men were without sanctifying grace which Christ later brought; satan was not yet reduced in power by Christ; and Christ was not yet drawing all men to Himself. Ergo…men needed great threats from God just to avoid sins like adultery. They needed great threats to simply be decent prior to Christ bringing those three improvements. Ergo to not implement the Old Testament death penalties for mortal sin was not civilized…it was detrimental to salvation in its pre Christ context. Lol…there is nothing ideal about frustrating those penalties until Christ does so because He as God is ending them. He stops them in the incident with the adultress woman since these men were supposed to have brought the man also but did not. Christ then writes the name of each man in the dirt and a secret sin of each man…that is why they leave one by one in order of age. Prior to Christ doing that, they were mandatory as the ideal…not as a failure morally.

      That is an amusing personal opinion but in the end only an opinion & Christ was slain from the foundation of the world so sufficient grace would be had by the Jews to live the ideal. To claim Christ only stopped the execution of the Adulteress because the men violated the Law by not bringing her paramour negates the fact He could have simply said “This woman must die & where is the man she slept with he has to die too & bring her back when you find him then pelt them”.

      BTW looking for a legal loophole to avoid putting someone to death sounds pretty Rabbinic to me. But then again Our Lord IS a Jew and a Rabbi so this harmony between him and Rabbinic Tradition surprises nobody but radical neo-Marcionites.

      (OTOH your theory the legal loophole here was that the man was not brought to be put to death too, ignores the possibility this woman was a Priest’s daughter in which case the penalty for death is burning not stoning. Thus the Pharasees wanted to Trap Jesus by getting him to hand down the wrong penalty to the wrong type of victim.)

    • Elijah fan

      Actually I pray for Mike and Monica Goldberg and Lee and Robin Schamberg often…friends of mine. But “Jews” as a religious group posing as post 70 AD pacifists on the OT death penalties makes no biblical sense….and such people are reinventing reality to avoid a guilt they shouldn’t have. You haven’t read much Bible and I read the whole thing. That is causing ego friction from you…..best let this thread return to immigrant matter anyway.

    • Jim the Scott

      >Actually I pray for Mike and Monica Goldberg and Lee and Robin Schamberg often…friends of mine. But “Jews” as a religious group posing as post 70 AD pacifists on the OT death penalties makes no biblical sense

      Says who? According to whose interpretation? Catholics, Rabbinic Jews, and Eastern Orthodox don’t buy into this Post Reformation Perspicuity/Sola Scriptura crap or are you posting here as a Protestant?

      Jewish Tradition has shown me the Old Testament alone on paper isn’t so bad. For example Jewish Tradition teaches an execution should be as quick and painless as possible. Let us take stoning. Throwing rocks at people till they die is a pretty slow, painful and horrific way to kill someone.
      But Tradition tells us Stoning involves pushing the victim off a roof onto a pile of rocks so they break their neck and if they survive the fall two men with a big rock had to stand by to put the person out of their misery.

      It is funny but when the crowds threatened to stone Jesus they tried to “throw him off a cliff”….just saying…then there is the martyrdom of St James the less thrown from the roof of the temple….nuff said.

      >….and such people are reinventing reality to avoid a guilt they shouldn’t have. You haven’t read much Bible and I read the whole thing. That is causing ego friction from you…..best let this thread return to immigrant matter anyway.

      Yes let us do the later so I don’t have to hit you on your felonious psychoanalysis.

      Shalom.

    • Elijah fan

      Peace.

  • james

    Another question more to the heart of the problem is: does the US have a moral responsibility to do
    business in any way with a country which forces its citizens to flee or become refugees. If, ie we take
    in large numbers of refugees from Syria as other countries are doing, fleeing for their lives, is it the
    responsibility of those citizens to return to their country of origin once we or the UN go in and clean
    up the political / military mess ? I would think in the case where millions are displaced any haven that
    is given is respite from the storm and not a permanent destination.