With the Pope’s visit, it’s time to welcome immigrants and refugees

In a few days, Pope Francis will address our nation, carrying a message of hope, particularly for those who live on the margins of our society — the poor, the dispossessed, the immigrant and the refugee. His historic visit is an opportunity to catalyze new efforts to respond to the world refugee crisis and to reenergize the currently stalled efforts to fix our broken immigration system.

The plight of Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe, with the contrasting responses of rejection and welcome, has captured the world’s attention in recent days. We identify with the hopes and aspirations of parents seeking a safe place to raise their kids. Catholics and evangelicals who follow Jesus, who fled the persecution of Herod and was Himself a refugee, are called by God to open our hearts to the persecuted.

{mosads}On immigration, last year the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, and hopes were high that the House of Representatives would follow suit. Immigrant families in our churches and communities looked forward to being reunited with family members from whom they had long been separated. Those without legal immigration status prepared to make themselves right with the law. And Americans looked forward to more secure borders and an efficient legal immigration system that would serve the needs and protect the rights of workers, businesses, families and communities.

One year later the promise of immigration reform remains unfulfilled. In Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, our leaders have not proposed constructive solutions. Several immigration bills that are being considered on Capitol Hill could actually make things worse. Some presidential candidates have made unhelpful comments that have further polarized the electorate.

Pope Francis’ visit is a chance for the nation to refocus on our immigrant heritage and to be reminded about how immigrants and refugees have built and sustained our country. He has raised up our shared humanity with the migrant by his willingness to not only speak for them, but to be among them.

Pope Francis has spoken of the “globalization of indifference” to migrants in the world, part of a “throwaway culture.”  He will likely return to this theme during his U.S. visit, while also reminding us of America’s greatness as an immigrant nation and how this heritage has made us a beacon of hope to the world.  It is a message that transcends politics and speaks to our own identity and to our nation’s place as a moral leader in the world.

We are gratified at the compassionate response of so many Americans to the needs of refugees, and their support for their resettlement. We echo Pope Francis’ call for every church to do something about the current refugee crisis. We also renew our call for our leaders to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

It is our prayer that Catholic and evangelical Christians, together with our elected officials, presidential candidates and fellow citizens, will listen to the Pope’s message in support of persons on the move, open our hearts to the immigrants and refugees among us, and welcome them with open arms in the same way that God has received us.  We must remember our roots as newcomers to this great land and not become a “throwaway” nation, indifferent to the plight of our fellow human beings.

Elizondo is the auxiliary bishop of Seattle, Washington, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration; Anderson is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.


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