If the American people are looking for some wisdom amid the tired rhetoric dominating our nation’s current immigration debate, let’s look to Pope Francis for some renewed perspective.
In February, Pope Francis traveled to Mexico for six days and spoke directly on the immigration crisis along the Mexico-U.S. border.
He urged all those listening to see the issue as one characterized not by numbers and statistics, but illustrated by faces, families and personal stories.
As he stood on a platform overlooking the Rio Grande, Pope Francis called on each of us to view illegal immigrants through the lens of humanity. Let me be clear, those who are attempting the dangerous, and all too often deadly, journey from parts of Central America through Mexico and across the border are not asking for much. They are simply seeking survival. Their hopes cling to the possibility of a future for their kids without rampant drug violence. Realistically, they are not looking to amass the wealth of the 1 percent. Their dreams are often realized in blue collar jobs with long hours that, they desperately hope, will provide just enough for their children to make it to college one day.
The same can be said for the more than 1 million refugees who have flooded into Europe during last year, largely prompted by the conflict in Syria, the Pope reminded us.
“The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today,” he said.
When GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump called Pope Francis a “political man” for responding to Trump’s inflammatory suggestion to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, the Pope responded by reminding us that Aristotle defined a human being as “animal politicus” and pointed us to our shared humanity. Building a wall stretching across the 1,933-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico, as Trump has proposed, is not only inhumane but should make us question, who are we trying to keep out and why? What are we keeping in?
The only villain that the American people need protection against is the Donald himself.
In a particularly poignant gesture, Pope Francis laid flowers at the foot of a cross memorializing the many lives lost along the Mexican border. Like any American, those individuals simply wanted to provide a decent life for their families.
Pope Francis addressed pressing issues such as corruption, drug trafficking, poverty and inequality during his trip to Mexico. The issue of illegal immigrants struck particularly close to home for us, in light of the crisis abroad and the raging debate we face at home.