“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt…” — Matthew 2:13
We are a nation of immigrants. Hailing from Italy and Ireland, my great-grandparents persevered through a rather stringent vetting process on Ellis Island. In time, my dad would be born in Cuba and I would arrive in Venezuela, where I still hold citizenship.
As it happens, Jesus Christ was also an immigrant. Considering the classic doctrine, coming from Heaven, He was truly an alien as no other has been, and indeed His parents were caused to flee the little town of Bethlehem to find refuge elsewhere.
Once again, the immigration debate is raging in our country, though, in reality, deportation raids were taking place well before our most recent Presidential election. It is noteworthy that the last administration made it easier to import Cuban cigars, while turning Cuban refugees away, even if they’ve risked their lives to reach landfall in the United States.
My eldest daughter is intimately familiar with the young lives of those whose parents hail from Mexico, and the fact that many come here to escape a horribly inhumane existence. Her students believe in us, even when it may not seem we believe in them. Just last Memorial Day weekend, a gentleman in San Antonio told me if he was to visit his original hometown of Mexico City by car, he’d likely be kidnapped along the way and held for ransom.
So, I am left to consider these questions…
What if we were to treat Mexican immigrants as refugees, with all the reasonable vetting attached to that designation?
Does it make sense to have any immigration law, reformed or not, if we do not have secure borders?
How much has each one of us economically benefited from those who have stepped outside the law to enter our country?
What about the many upstanding foreign nationals legally here in the United States for years, who own homes, pay taxes, have American children, yet they cannot get Green Cards to afford them a permanent stay?
Today, the UN claims there are 60 million refugees world-wide, and, while each one is a beloved child of God, no one nation can harbor and give safe-haven for all. How do we decide who we are capable of welcoming, and who we must turn away?
The dynamic of migration is as old as the Scriptures and as new as the latest headlines on FOX or CNN. There are many sides to this ethical polygon, and it does us no good in this country to call names or denigrate the character of those with whom we may disagree. This national tendency will hopefully not become a permanent habit.
In a sense, as complicated as it is, the immigration challenge is a good one for us to face. It means people deeply want to come to the United States, and the Unites States continues to represent a heartfelt and abiding respect for all good people. In these areas, I don’t believe anything has fundamentally changed at all.
In the Church, with Christ as our guide, we can neither be personally callous or politically naive. No one can lay claim to an easy answer, and a great nation need not take comfort in the absence of facing real challenge. In our community, with diversity as a gift, I believe each of us needs to continue modeling, wherever we can, what it means to be a faithful person, and thereby, a good American.