I got hit over the head on Monday with the Mass reading from Deuteronomy 10 because it speaks so eloquently about the immigration issue.
Here is is in case you missed it.
For the LORD, your God, is the God of gods,
the LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome,
who has no favorites, accepts no bribes;
who executes justice for the orphan and the widow,
and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.
So you too must befriend the alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.
That couldn’t be clearer. We have not only a human, but a spiritual responsibility to welcome the stranger, befriend the alien and assist the needy and homeless.
What I love about this is that the responsibility to do so is linked with the Hebrews’ own status as refugees, nomads and foreigners in the land.
How crucial and original of God to reveal himself to a tribe of nomads in the desert! The symbolism and irony is rich and profound for all of us who are followers of the Lord Jesus are pilgrims here. We are strangers in a strange land, longing for our true home, our promised land–the city who’s maker and architect is God.
I remember the old gospel song putting it so well.
“This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s golden shore,
and I can’t be at home in this world anymore.”
We are to welcome the stranger and the refugee, and I can’t figure out why so many Americans–so many Catholics for that matter–are so upset about the immigration issue. This country was built on immigrants. Most of us came from somewhere else. As far as we know, even the Native Americans were immigrants if you go back far enough.
The Catholic bishops have given clear teaching on this matter. Immigrants are to be welcomed and assisted. However, the bishops also teach that countries have the right to define and defend their sovereign borders.
What I don’t get is why this is so difficult and controversial. I realize the problem is immense and I also realize I am not an expert. I’m just another American with an opinion, but why does this need to be such a threat?
Why is it so hard to both defend our borders while also welcoming the people who wish to come here and be part of our great nation? If Trump wants to build a wall I’m of the opinion that he should do so, but instead of calling it a wall, why not say it is a boundary with gateways in order to welcome and process immigrants efficiently and successfully?
Why can’t this boundary barrier be designed with entry points at key locations complete with processing centers, where refugees and potential immigrants can have their papers validated, receive a health check and get lined up in programs for full citizenship? Why can’t a program be set up which would direct them to communities where we actually need people? The depressed cities of the North and the increasingly empty towns of the Midwest are full of housing opportunities, and if cheap labor is available companies would soon re-locate, and with local government assistance there would be jobs, language courses and eventually full citizenship.
Nobody could object to such a program. It would be positive and welcoming to the people who really want to come here for a better life. If there is a path to citizenship, then they would take part, pay taxes and contribute to our country. Furthermore, whatever political party put such a program in place would immediately garner a huge loyal group of voters loyal to them. It seems a no brainer.
At the same time, the welcome gates would have in place the necessary screening so criminals and those who have no right to be here would be filtered out and returned to their own countries.
Americans are a can do people. We are so smart, so optimistic, so welcoming and so entrepreneurial. We have big hearts and sharp brains. We’re hard working and creative, so why is it so hard to get this right?