"The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need.” This statement, offered in July by Pope Francis during his visit to one of Brazil’s favelas, or shanty towns, expresses powerfully one of the core principles of Catholic Social Thought -- as well the Catholic perspective on immigration reform.
In late June, just before Pope Francis traveled to Brazil, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan plan intended to reform our country’s immigration policies. While the Senate bill is not perfect, it is notable that it calls for a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrations already in the country. The House of Representatives has yet to take up the issue, a necessary step before an immigration reform law can be completed, signed by the President and implemented.
The University of San Diego is convinced that the 11 million people currently in our country without documentation are like the men and women who have come to America for generations in search of a better life for themselves and their families. As a nation of immigrants, we take great pride in being a country that welcomes people of good will. Nowhere is this pride more evident than in our Statue of Liberty.
We are equally convinced that the current immigration system is profoundly broken, unjust and dehumanizing. It leads directly to hundreds of migrants dying in the American desert each year. It tears families apart and leaves those without documentation vulnerable to a wide variety of abuse, mistreatment and oppression.
Our concern for migrants and refugees has its foundation in Scripture. The Old Testament poignantly depicts Moses and the Jewish people in exile and the Holy Family as an archetype for refugees everywhere. The prophets are passionate in their defense of the poor and the demand that they be treated justly. And the Gospel, of course, reminds us that when we welcome the stranger, we welcome Christ. These and other Biblical texts challenge us to recognize and reverence the human dignity of our sisters and brothers who journey to the U.S. as migrants.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has summarized immigration reform as “Helping immigrants contribute to American life and answering the Gospel call to ‘welcome the stranger.’” Along with the other U.S. Bishops, Dolan has called for various reforms to our immigration system: a generous, earned path to citizenship; making family reunification a priority; protecting the integrity of our borders; securing due process for immigrants and their families; improving refugee protection and asylum laws; and addressing the root causes of unauthorized immigration.”
Committed to the principles of Catholic Social Thought and in alignment with the U.S. and Mexican Bishops, USD is committed to advocating for comprehensive immigration reform that protects all students and their families; that supports the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minor (DREAM) Act of 2013; and that reinforces our sustained commitment to ensuring that education services and financial aid benefits are available to all our students, regardless of their legal status.
As a University community, we seek to heed the call of Pope Francis for a “change in attitude” toward migrants and refugees around the world, moving away from “attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and fear” toward the recognition that migrants and refugees are not "pawns on the chessboard of humanity” but rather are our sisters and brothers.