Immigration may seem like a problem for other people to worry about; an issue that impacts faceless strangers in foreign lands. The truth is quite different.
These people are not faceless; they are the families sitting in the pew next to us, they are our co-workers, and they are the very men and women who have left their homelands to convey the message of Jesus Christ to us.
Deacon Francisco Javier Onate Vargas is one of those messengers. He was ordained into the transitional diaconate to serve as a priest in South Carolina. A joyous occasion muted by the absence of his mother, who was repeatedly denied a tourist visa to cross our border and witness her son’s ordination.
The very woman who nurtured his calling and sent him off to serve God, was unable to celebrate with her son.
We also have the Adorno Fathers, religious men from the Philippines who have come to serve God’s people in our state. They tell stories of their families, people who bear the impact of a failing immigration system; fathers who must leave wives and children in order to find work, children allowed into our country one at a time, sometimes decades apart.
These policies are tearing away the fabric of the family unit that is integral to a strong society and culture of life.
The bishops of the United States do not advocate that we open our country to whoever wants to enter. We understand the need to secure our borders against those seeking entrance for evil reasons; people smuggling drugs or potential terrorists with plans for violence.
But we must not let those valid concerns close our hearts to people coming across for the right reasons. We must welcome our brothers and sisters reaching out for hope and safety; we must protect the family unit and safeguard religious freedoms.
I ask you to recognize that the flood of immigrants is a global human crisis brought to our borders by poverty, famine and war.
It is our duty as disciples of Christ to rise up and fight against these destructive forces of evil, in the way that Jesus would have us do: welcome, comfort, feed and clothe. These families in crisis should never be met with hostility; their children forcibly taken.
I urge you to remember the face of our Lord in each person you see. Demand our Congress take action against a failing immigration system that is undeniably broken, and in its place create a system that offers a timely and Christian response to the rising tide of humanity breaking against our shores.