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‘A crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul’

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Blaming huge numbers of violent killings, assaults, sex crimes and drug overdoses on undocumented immigrants, President Donald Trump in his first prime-time speech from the Oval Office (Jan. 8) said, “This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” and insisted that Congress provide $5.7 billion for a wall extension along the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Trump’s words are absolutely correct: “This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.” But how he applies these words are absolutely incorrect.

There is indeed a humanitarian crisis. But not a fictional one of countless dangerous migrants invading the U.S. to terrorize American citizens, but rather a real crisis of suffering migrants – especially those in Central America’s Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who are victims of drug gang violence, extortion, kidnappings, and lack of jobs – seeking a safe, decent life for themselves and their families. Isn’t that what all of us want?

During an interview I had with Kevin Eckery, vice chancellor for the Diocese of San Diego – which borders Mexico – he said, “This is a manufactured crisis, there is no invasion. We instead need to find ways to be abundantly compassionate.” 

Numerous studies confirm that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than U.S.-born citizens.  And in fact, immigrants greatly enrich our churches, culture and economy.

According to “The Hill” (http://bit.ly/1rm6iF0), certain segments of the U.S. economy like agriculture, are overwhelmingly dependent upon undocumented immigrants. “In terms of overall numbers, The Department of Labor reports that of the 2.5 million farm workers in the U.S., over half (53 percent) are illegal immigrants. Growers and labor unions put this figure at 70 percent.”

According to U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees there are more than 25 million refugees and over 3 million asylum seekers throughout the world (see: https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html). And sadly, only a very small percentage of them are allowed to build new lives in host countries.

On average only about 24,000 persons are granted asylum in the U.S.  annually (see: https://bit.ly/2bqdgre).

And in fiscal year 2018 the U.S. drastically reduced the number of refugees admitted to only 22,491 (see: https://cnn.it/2xY0QFi).

According to the conservative American CATO Institute, in 2017, 49 countries had higher rates of acceptance of asylum seekers and refugees than the U.S.  And poor tiny Lebanon, the world’s most welcoming nation, has accepted asylum seekers at 73 times the rate of the United States (see: https://bit.ly/2FiqUjE).

It is essential that faithful Catholics in the U.S and other rich nations, pressure their government leaders to allow far more refugees and asylum seekers into their countries.

And it is also very important that U.S. citizens email and call their two U.S. senators and congressperson (Capitol switchboard number: 202-224-3121) urging them to pass long overdue fair, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year. And to urge them to greatly increase diplomatic and financial resources to help remedy the root-causes that force millions of fellow human beings to flee from their countries.

As faithful Catholics it is absolutely essential that we put our political persuasions aside and take to heart the teaching Saint Pope John XXIII gave us in his encyclical Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”): “Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own country; and, when there are just reasons for it, the right to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there.”

Comments from readers

CaludioCroce - 02/12/2019 09:07 AM
I am not in a position to accept or to approve or to judge immigrants in this country AS LONG AS THEY ARE LEGAL. While I came to the United States in a comfortable airplane, being served food, drink and entertainment, with lawyers on the ground available to do the necessary paperwork to provide me legal status, others aren’t so lucky. Being born in a country marred by corruption, where institutions are weak and opportunities are far from being equally and fairly distributed, I understand that my situation is merely the luck of the draw. Had I been born in another country just a little more corrupt, or in a family with fewer privileges… or had attended schools with fewer resources… I may not have had the “perfect storm” variables that granted me the PRIVILEGE to migrate legally to a country that treats me better as a human being. I am only in the position to be grateful to God for having given me the gift to experience life in the United States, a country that have inspired me even before I ever stepped foot in it. I believe that with privilege comes responsibility. I would be ashamed of myself to classify immigrants in just two categories: legal and illegal. While I understand that an “invasion” of immigrants to the US, Europe or anywhere else, are most often disruptive to the social order; I cannot allow myself to think that the inconveniences of their presence in our backyards speak louder than the suffering of families whose human rights are not respected. America is a beacon of inspiration to the world. As it has inspired me when I was young, not having the faintest idea that one day DESTINY would put me here living on this soil, it should continue to inspire others all over the world. Our conversations should not be focused so much in building walls or borders, albeit necessary, but about how America should continue to be the source of INSPIRATION and ENCOURAGEMENT to a world that has already expanded its frontiers and opened so many doors.
Beatriz Bezos - 02/11/2019 05:43 PM
Legal and vetted migration has been and will always be welcomed. Just like my family became part of the American dream, I personally welcome all families that come legally to work and enjoy the benefits of this Republic. We all came with one piece of luggage, proper papers submitted and worked very hard to integrate. And yes, en mi casa se habla español, somos bilingües y orgullosos de ser americanos recordando nuestras raices. I am repeating other posts, but I invite Mr. Magliano to research and visit Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador. Find ways of helping the desperate souls oppressed by the local oligarchs in their countries! Otherwise, you are just filling the coffers of the controlling governments, that keep the funds and donations. In reference to the excuse of agriculture workers, please learn about H1A visas. You will be surprised about how individuals can come to work legally - and no, you do not hear about this in the media. Have a blessed day and stay informed.
Dan Gorman - 02/11/2019 01:47 PM
More money for the corrupt governments of those central American countries that suppress their people? Unlimited immigration of caravans of foreign peoples most of whom are healthy young men? Open borders? The desperate attempt to add votes to an evil and lately socialist Democratic Party? Narcotics and killers included in the mix? I don't think so and I'm surprised eminent members of our Catholic clergy think so.
Lourdes R. Reimundo - 02/11/2019 12:06 PM
Good article and I most definitely agree with the teaching of St. Pope John Paul so long as they emigrate LEGALLY and correctly.
Rigo Labrada Jr - 02/11/2019 11:23 AM
With all due respect, you are looking at the San Diego perspective. Please investigate the Texas border perspective. The underlying question you do not address, is Why are these poor souls attempting such a dangerous journey and with their families? How about addressing the countries they are coming from and write about those stories. That the US needs to be compassionate and respond better, yes. That the past Administrations kicked this can for decades is undeniable, so let us pray that both Democrats and Republicans be enlightened to solve this problem. A survey of US Border officials have asked for stricter measures and more for the past few years. This story perspective is missing because you are just concentrating on the San Diego border. I will venture to guess that the majority of the illegal crossings are through the Texas Mexico passage. We are a country of laws and all of us inside and outside need to follow them. We are also a country of God fearing and loving individuals who need to take care of everyone both inside and outside our borders because that is the Christian message. So, I needed to respond to this because a few other perspectives need to be written and you have provided just one. God Bless you and may He help this great Country! Rigo Labrada Jr.
Luis Barzana - 02/11/2019 11:10 AM
Excellent article!

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