The car­a­van from Cen­tral Amer­ica, and our re­sponse as per­sons of faith

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FROM THE FRONT PAGE - By Bishop Peter A. Rosazza The Most Rev. Peter A. Rosazza is aux­il­iary bishop emer­i­tus, Arch­dio­cese of Hartford.

As I pre­pare th­ese words, a car­a­van con­sist­ing of men, women and chil­dren flee­ing op­pres­sion in Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries is slow­ing ap­proach­ing the bor­der be­tween Mex­ico and the United States. What should be the re­sponse of the good peo­ple of our coun­try to th­ese sis­ters and broth­ers in need?

Here are some prin­ci­ples from Catholic so­cial teach­ing, points that I be­lieve are gen­er­ally ac­cept­able to per­sons of other faith tra­di­tions.

First, th­ese peo­ple are our neigh­bors, ac­cord­ing to Je­sus’ para­ble of the good Sa­mar­i­tan. To the ques­tion, “Who is my neigh­bor?” Je­sus teaches that ev­ery­one is our neigh­bor and that be­ing neigh­bor means reach­ing out ef­fec­tively to per­sons who are suf­fer­ing.

Fol­low­ing from this are the words from the Book of Deuteron­omy: “Love the so­journer, there­fore, for you were so­journ­ers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut.


We re­call that Joseph and Mary and the baby Je­sus were for­eign­ers in Egypt as they were forced to flee King Herod’s at­tempts to kill the child.

Next, sovereign na­tions have the right to con­trol their bor­ders. How­ever, wealth­ier na­tions have a strong obli­ga­tion to ac­com­mo­date refugees.

Yes, it is nec­es­sary to vet those who seek asy­lum but the pos­si­bil­ity that there may be a few crim­i­nals among them is not rea­son to re­ject the whole lot.

Thirdly, peo­ple have the right to mi­grate to sup­port them­selves and their fam­i­lies. This flows from the right to self-preser­va­tion, a right that can­not be alien­ated or taken away, so ba­sic is it to hu­man dig­nity. Thus sovereign na­tions should pro­vide ways to ac­com­mo­date th­ese peo­ple if, as in the case of our own, they have the abil­ity to do so.

Fourthly, the dig­nity and hu­man rights of asy­lum seek­ers and un­doc­u­mented per­sons should be re­spected. Th­ese in­clude the rights to food, shel­ter, and free­dom from fear. Though it is against the law for peo­ple to en­ter our coun­try il­le­gally, it is not il­le­gal to re­main here once they ar­rive.

Fifthly, it is im­moral to make vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple such as im­mi­grants scape­goats for our prob­lems. In re­al­ity, our coun­try needs their la­bor as is ev­i­dent in the num­bers who take jobs like wash­ing dishes, mow­ing lawns, shov­el­ing snow, work­ing in meat-pack­ing plants and in the gru­el­ing agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.

Lastly, Amer­i­cans are for fair­ness and com­pas­sion for those who suf­fer. Just put our­selves in the shoes of the asy­lum seek­ers. Would you and I do the same thing for our­selves and our fam­i­lies? I cer­tainly would.

I close with words Pope Fran­cis spoke when he vis­ited our coun­try in 2015: “Let us treat oth­ers with the same pas­sion and com­pas­sion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for oth­ers the same pos­si­bil­i­ties which we seek for our­selves. Let us help oth­ers to grow as we would like to be helped our­selves.”

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