There’s a whole lot of cherry picking going on in regard to the issue of immigration and refugees.
We are all guilty of confirmation bias. We quote mine for scriptures that support our experience or our beliefs. We cherry pick articles that prove our point. We love memes that mic drop our favorite arguments.
My Facebook feed is littered with Sacred Scripture being used to support ideas that aren’t biblical. I have seen quotes from Pope Francis used to support both sides. Its confusing when people see quotes that imply that the Pope agrees with a certain agenda when, in truth, he doesn’t. There is rampant hysteria from false narratives rallying people in a crusade to kill the beast!
The scriptural mandate to “welcome the foreigner” is being used to promote the idea that all immigration control is wrong. But is that what scripture teaches?
In his article, Islamic Refugee Crisis: Good Samaritan or Maccabean Response? Or both , Taylor Marshall makes the case that we have an obligation as Christians to care for victims AND to resist, protect and expel those who pose a danger. “We see this principle in our Scriptural readings. When it comes to the Samaritan, he rightfully cares for the victim. However, when it comes to the nation and the threat of terrorism (Seleucid Greeks), false laws, and the danger of our children, military, and civic peace, we (like the Maccabees) are politically obliged to resist, protect, and expel…for the common good.
The Catholic Church’s teaching, which is based on scripture, is that is good government has TWO moral duties, “both of which must be carried out and neither one ignored”.
The fist duty is to welcome the foreigner to the extent they are able. The second duty is to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good. The U.S. Conference of Bishops wrote this:
The first duty is to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the human person. Persons have the right to immigrate and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, especially financially blessed nations: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.” Catholic Catechism, 2241.
The second duty is to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good. Sovereign nations have the right to enforce their laws and all persons must respect the legitimate exercise of this right: “Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.” Catholic Catechism, 2241.
“Despite his dislike of walls, Pope Francis declared Friday that “every country has the right to control its borders,” especially where the risk of terrorism exists.”
There is a time to build bridges and a time to build walls. The truth is that walls, like locked doors or fences, aren’t bad in and of themselves. There is an appropriate time and place for them and, as William Kilpatrick points out, sometimes wall are even merciful !
“In several places, the Bible acknowledges the importance of walls. In the Book of Revelation, the Holy City of Jerusalem is described as being surrounded with “a great, high wall” (Rev 21: 12). And in Isaiah, the Lord says:
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen. (Is 62: 6)” -William Kilpatrick
Jesus said, There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower.
“Why do you need watchmen? To keep an eye out for enemies, of course. The Old Testament authors took the existence of enemies for granted. So did Jesus. He mentions enemies on several occasions. Moreover, in the parable of the householder and the thieves, he acknowledges the legitimacy of defending one’s house against break-ins (Mt 24: 43). That would seem to imply that walls and bolted doors are not necessarily unreasonable.” -William Kilpatrick
Taylor Marshall makes another point that helping those in need of shelter: “I am not obliged to take the homeless into my house and have them sleep in my daughter’s bedroom at night. I am not obliged by justice or charity to give the homeless a vote over my financial decisions. He does not have the right to choose what’s for dinner. The homeless man does not (by my charity) receive a right to my continued support. The homeless man cannot share a bed with my wife when I am traveling. Nor may he presume a right over my children’s belongings…
Remember the Good Samaritan! He did not take the roadside victim home with him. Rather, the Good Samaritan put the victim up in a hotel and paid for him to get better. The Good Samaritan was good and commended by Christ. The Good Samaritan did the right thing: humanitarian aid.
We are not required by Christ to take victims that oppose our faith and our way of life and make them into our political heirs. We are not required to take them into our homes.
But we are obliged to help them. And if terrorists use our charity as a pretense to hurt us, then, as Thomas Aquinas says, they should be swiftly destroyed.” Islamic Refugee Crisis: Good Samaritan or Maccabean Response? Or both
“The U.S. Catholic Bishops accept the legitimate role of the U.S. government in intercepting unauthorized migrants who attempt to travel to the United States. The Bishops also believe that by increasing lawful means for migrants to enter, live, and work in the United States, law enforcement will be better able to focus upon those who truly threaten public safety: drug and human traffickers, smugglers, and would‐be terrorists. Any enforcement measures must be targeted, proportional, and humane.”
Comprehensive immigration reform that carries out both duties include these elements:
Earned Legalization: An earned legalization program would allow foreign nationals of good moral character who are living in the United States to apply to adjust their status to obtain lawful permanent residence.
Future Worker Program: A worker program to permit foreign‐born workers to enter the country safely and legally would help reduce illegal immigration and the loss of life in the American desert. Any program should include workplace protections, living wage levels, safeguards against the displacement of U.S. workers, and family unity.
Family‐based Immigration Reform: It currently takes years for family members to be reunited through the family‐based legal immigration system. This leads to family breakdown and, in some cases, illegal immigration. Changes in family‐based immigration should be made to increase the number of family visas available and reduce family reunification waiting times.
Restoration of Due Process Rights: Due process rights taken away by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) should be restored. For example, the three and ten year bars to reentry should be eliminated.
Addressing Root Causes: Congress should examine the root causes of migration, such as under‐development and poverty in sending countries, and seek long‐term solutions. The antidote to the problem of illegal immigration is sustainable economic development in sending countries. In an ideal world, migration should be driven by choice, not necessity.
Enforcement: The U.S. Catholic Bishops accept the legitimate role of the U.S. government in intercepting unauthorized migrants who attempt to travel to the United States. The Bishops also believe that by increasing lawful means for migrants to enter, live, and work in the United States, law enforcement will be better able to focus upon those who truly threaten public safety: drug and human traffickers, smugglers, and would‐be terrorists. Any enforcement measures must be targeted, proportional, and humane.-U.S. Catholic Bishops
Jimmy Akin highlights three important qualifiers that are often dropped out in this discussion in his article Immigration and Catholic Teaching.
While the media has fueled hysteria by falsely claiming that President Trump’s Executive Order is a “Muslim ban”, some of the fear can be attributed to poor communication about the Order as pointed out in Persons first: Refugees, Immigrants and Executive Orders
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez points out that “We all agree that our nation has the obligation to secure its borders and establish criteria for who is permitted to enter and how long they are permitted to stay. In a post-9/11 world, we all agree there are people both inside and outside our borders who want to hurt us. We share a common concern for our nation’s security and the safety of our loved ones. That does not make these orders less troubling. Halting admissions of refugees for 90 or 120 days may not seem like a long time. But for a family fleeing a war-torn nation, or the violence of drug cartels, or warlords who force even children into armies — this could mean the difference between life and death.”
So, while we are all prone to confirmation bias, we can be intentional about pursuing truth. Truth that matters in our response to suffering people. The truth is that there are refugees who desperately need help and justice and there are refugees that intend harm. The suffering is real for refugees in crisis and for people who have been harmed and killed by militant refugees. Let’s ask ourselves hard questions. Do we only care about refugees when they fit our political agenda or are we giving our money and/or our time to organizations that serve their needs like this? Do our political beliefs consider how to provide true justice and compassion for foreigners, refugees, orphans and widows while also fulfilling the obligation project the common good?
These are questions I have asked myself and I encourage other Christians to do the same. I welcome respectful dialogue. We can learn from each other and challenge each other in finding the best ways to “welcome the foreigner”. If we only care about refugees who are suffering and not the people who have been harmed by militant refugees, we’ve got it wrong. If we turn away people in need based solely on fear, we’ve got it wrong. If we insist that we take on more refugees than our country can handle, we’ve got it wrong. If we pontificate about the good that we should be doing and don’t do it, we’ve got it wrong. Charity, justice and respect for human persons requires bridges sometimes and walls other times. The wise will seek to know the difference.