Justice for immigrants: a truly Christian response

By The Beacon | April 17, 2014 12:26am


Patrick Tomassi |

Earlier this month, eight US bishops met in Nogales, Ariz., to celebrate Mass for the thousands who have died trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States, and to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. While the Senate passed a bipartisan bill last year, the House of Representatives has refused to take up the issue. Faced with the current situation, what is needed is a truly Christian response, one which takes into account the person.

As with issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, immigration reform tends to be a polarizing debate. It is tempting to jump to one political stance or another, and we see this in the fact that House Republicans refuse to address the problem. But it is not politicians who lose when this happens; it is immigrants. As Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, the auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Seattle, said “our nation can no longer employ an immigration system that divides families and denies basic due process protections to our fellow human beings.” It is not acceptable to respond with impersonal absolutes; we have to look at the person.

For those of us who are Catholic, and probably for those who are not as well, it is more than clear what the Church teaches about the “pelvic” issues. We are all too familiar with the Republi-Catholic and Demo-Catholic mindsets, which often stem from where we as individuals stand on these issues.

But these labels do not describe Christianity and have become unhelpful in dealing with the diverse issues that face us today. In contrast to this stands Pope Francis. Around the world, Catholics and non-Catholics alike have been captivated in the past year by the example set by the pope. Why? Because over and over again, he has returned our focus from the “hot-button issues” to people. This became clear in his comments about homosexuality.

“Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person,” Pope Francis said. “Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.”

This is where our conversation about immigration reform must begin. I am encouraged by the bishops’ gesture last week. I hope that it can return our awareness to those whose lives are most impacted by the debate.

Patrick Tomassi is a senior mechanical engineering major. He can be reached at tomassi13@up.edu.