~ by Father Eugene Hemrick
The influx of immigrants is often portrayed as problematic. But is it so?
Recently, Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini was declared a saint for founding the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo that enabled Italian immigrants to assimilate into American culture and enjoy its prosperity.
My grandfather was an Italian immigrant who benefitted from the work of St. Scalabrini and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. The education he and my mother received was at the heart of their later success.
We must wonder what would happen if vacant office space in cities was converted into educational centers and corporations advertised for people to be “missionaries” to immigrants ground in the history and culture of the people they serve and possessing heartfelt duty to respond to their needs.
What if these educational centers taught American inculturation: how to shop, get a driver’s license, open a bank account, find employment. What if studies were conducted to learn of immigrant success stories?
What if there was the philosophy of enabling immigrants to better learn how to help themselves and giving them due credit for possessing talent. What if there was a routine practice of praising their music, cuisine and family values.
One of the tragedies of the influx of immigrants is labeling it tragic and a threat to our economy. Equally tragic is building walls that stigmatize immigrants as undesirable people and busing them as unwelcome vagrants.
These negative images that denigrate their humanity are unjust.
A first principle of justice states that justice consists in living one with another, and the just person has an obligation to deal with the other.
This responsibility is inherited from God who created us as social beings. Equally true, being responsible for one another is the basis of decency.
Plato speaks of a debt, an obligation, owed to one another as the heart of justice. And yet, some feel immigration is negatively affecting our economic debt. How ironic to place an economic debt over a moral debt.
What if assisting immigrants is seen as a moral imperative, as an opportunity to repay God for our endowment of a blessed sense of responsibility for the other?