After Donald Trump’s November election, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles presided over a prayer service for hope and unity where he said that immigrants are hurt and afraid. Instead of creating division, he said, “now is the time to build unity and heal communities, through our love for our neighbor and our care for those in need.”
The call for compassion and unity went unheeded, however, and what had begun as unease developed into full-blown horror for many within the span of a few days in late January when President Trump signed executive orders on immigration and border security and applied a travel ban to seven predominately Muslim countries that, in practice, quickly saw those with valid visas and even permanent residents of the United States denied entry.
Bishops from around the United States raised their voices in protest of the new policies, with the result that a hierarchy whose members had just rightly lauded the Trump administration for reinstating the Mexico City policy (restricting funding for overseas abortions) was now pushing back in the name of compassion and concern for neighbor. The two greatly varied reactions to the administration’s policy maneuvering vividly illustrate how the Church looks past partisan or ideological agendas in favor of the greatest agenda of all: the Gospel.
Immigration is a controversial topic. Contrary to the belief of some, the Church does not call into question the right of a nation to protect its borders and to keep its residents safe. But the Church, working from a perspective of faith, does not just value the safety and protection of some. The Church values the safety and protection of human beings, regardless of race, class, immigration status, birth country or religion.
In the aftermath of the executive orders, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, wrote, in part: “We must remember the criteria by which Jesus said we will be judged, including whether or not we welcomed the stranger among us. ‘I was a stranger, and you welcomed me,’ Jesus said, in the parable of the last judgment, to those granted entry into His Kingdom. ‘I was a stranger and you gave me no welcome,’ Jesus said to those who were sent to eternal punishment.” This is the standard to which Catholics hold ourselves.
In late January, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Gomez, vice president, issued a joint statement “in defense of human dignity” on the travel ban, in which they explicitly spelled out the duty we have as Christians to welcome those who are suffering.
“The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom,” they wrote. “Many are families, no different from yours or mine, seeking safety and security for their children. Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil. We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends.”
As we face the coming months, let us remember in prayer the immigrants and refugees who are feeling alone and afraid. Let us pray for our nation, that we may together seek a path forward that both protects and welcomes. And let us remember that our duty as Catholic Christians is one that is not determined by party or ideology, but one that seeks always to, as Jesus commanded, love one another as he loved us.
Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor