Mercy for the Immigrant and the Refugee

Mercy for the Immigrant and the Refugee

Here is a link to this weekend’s readings.

forgiveThe readings this week are about the contingency of forgiveness. While we might like to think that God’s mercy is unconditional, that is not what we learn from Christ and the Scriptures. Instead, we hear again and again “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Sirach tells us, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” And likewise, if we fail to forgive, then we ourselves will not be forgiven. Jesus describes the sentence in his parable today: “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” The measure of God’s mercy, it seems, is only limited by our unwillingness to show mercy to others. Think of what a curse we pray upon ourselves if we fail to forgive others and then dare to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In all things, we should err on the side of mercy.

Think about this in terms of immigration. One of the most common critiques—the one that leads to demands to build a wall on our southern border—is that immigrants often come into the United States illegally. If only they would obey the law, then, ostensibly, the critics would be satisfied. There is no doubt that immigration law in the U.S. is a part of the problem. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that it is never okay to break the law, except to obey a higher law. Fleeing poverty, violence, and oppression, undocumented immigrants often implicitly appeal to a higher law when seeking a better life here. A protracted immigration process is simply impractical to those whose lives are at stake. Migrants risk a perilous journey and then the possibility of being deported and/or despised for breaking U.S. laws. If you are not in this position, imagine yourself in it. Wouldn’t you take these risks as well in order to save your loved ones?

shutterstock_411444634There are about 800,000 young people living in the U.S. as “Dreamers”—the beneficiaries of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) protection, which recognizes that young people brought into the country as children are not responsible for the law-breaking of their parents. For many or most of them, America is the only country they have known. This is their homeland. We gain nothing by deporting them. And additionally, tearing families apart seems to be a decidedly NON pro-life and pro-family approach.

For the Dreamers, DACA status represented mercy. The Administration has now ended DACA (no new enrollment in the program; and unless Congress acts, no decision about current and future Dreamers for six months). It seems it is up to Congress to extend mercy to these young people. Contact your representatives to let them know where you stand on this important issue. The Catholic Church has been one of the loudest voices in favor of extending protection to immigrants, including especially immigrant youth and families. Scripture, after all, is clear: “You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21) and, in positive terms, “You shall also love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). Moreover, Jesus identified Himself with the stranger, saying in reference to our final judgment, “I was… a stranger and you welcomed me… Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34-35).

shutterstock_2997388There is plenty of room for political difference in deciding on prudent ways to extend mercy to the stranger while also doing the work of protecting our borders and ensuring, as best we can, that nobody comes in who wishes us harm. Neither major party has a hold on the truth, and communication and compromise are required. Neither party wants the country to be harmed. Neither party wants to see human rights violated and human lives destroyed. Working together, we should be able to find a way forward. That way may include instances where amnesty is offered, such as DACA. Far from being a bad word, from a Catholic point of view, “amnesty” might well be seen as an expression of mercy—the very mercy that Christ warns us to have lest we be denied mercy in our own judgment as well.

3 Comments
  • Rick C.
    Posted at 17:42h, 19 September

    For the majority of us in this country today we are two or three or perhaps five or six generations removed from those of our ancestors. We are the recipients of there trials and risks and sacrifices. We are obligated to give thoughtful discernment to today’s challenges. The laws of our nation must be respected. Yet we are a country like no other and offer opportunities and freedoms granted to us by God, who only asks for our love in return.

  • Marion Collins
    Posted at 22:25h, 19 September

    Kevin, you have written about Forgiveness before but this gives us a different prospectivea-one which we should all remember!
    If we fail to forgive others, we can expect the same will apply to us! Jesus, very clearly told us that forgiveness and mercy must go in both directions. God has limitless Mercy but only if we show the same to others. Matthew 5:7 tells us “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”.
    Yes, many immigrants disobeyed the law when they entered the U.S. Illegally but the Law of God was already broken when we look at the injustices and lack of mercy shown them. When we see the cruelty of denying people to immigrate because their children are dying from hunger and diseases or parents fleeing from the threat of death but wanting to keep their families together, we must find a way to extend Forgiveness and Mercy. Given those conditions, we can hardly expect them to wade through the rigors of our government with mountains of paper work and many delays. I can attest to that, having gone through the frustration of an international adoption of my daughter.
    Migrants want, like all of us, to find a good life for their families and Refugees flee from imminent danger of death, In conscience we cannot deny them!
    The young adults facing the threat of our Government repealing DACA deserve our mercy and prayers. They came as children, were raised and educated here and are now productive members of our Community. Some of them have even risked their lives in serving in our Armed Forces. It would be criminal to tear Families apart by sending these “Dreamers” to a Country where they do not know the language or people. We love to call ourselves the Land of Opportunity-so let these people continue to dream and prosper as they find Forgiveness!

  • Marion Collins
    Posted at 18:19h, 25 September

    Kevin,I absolutely love this blog! THe story of the man ringing the bells is so very touching and so was the perception of the priest in discerning that the Confirmation Candidate had a different style of learning than the “norm”. Yet this young man loved the Liturgy and the joyous sound of the bells at the most solemn part of Mass.
    There is an important lesson to be learned here. So often in Religious Education a standard curriculum is followed rigidly as we do not have the benefit of an IEP as students have in their schools.
    I have always encouraged Teachers to talk with Parents or a Teacher, he or she had the previous year if they perceived a learning or emotional issue. We are there for the whole child or teen! Our ways cannot measure up to the Wisdom of God! But we can always leave the door open for all His children!

    IN the Parable of the Vineyard, our sense of Justice is certainly not God’s. The Owner paid the same amount to each worker, regardless of how many hours he has worked.
    God’s generosity is limitless and we cannot stand in judgement of one another! An example, this week, was the Solidarity of the NFL Football Players -kneeling with their hand over their heart or interlocking arms as a way of respectfully speaking out about the injustices that have been done to Black Americans throughout our history and which continues today! It was a Peaceful Demonstration of their rights to Equality as brothers and sisters of God who merely exercised their Freedom of Speech.
    Your quote from Pope Francis “We must always remember the Person” could not have been a better closing!!!

    Thank you, Kevin, I love the lesson you taught us today about God’s Ways and our ways! You are a true Teacher-telling us to see each student according to his or her ability and adapting the optimum learning technique for their success and sense of self-worth.
    Bayard, Thanks again for the wonderful blogs of Kevin Dowd!