~ by Rhina Guidos, National Catholic Reporter
As immigration becomes a hot-button topic in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, women religious and other Catholics urge a compassionate Christian response toward people feeling perilous situations in record breaking numbers.
“If we changed what was being preached at our pulpits and talked about a God who migrates towards us, we’d have a different understanding of what people on the move, migrants, are about,” said Sr. Lisa Buscher, of the Society of the Sacred Heart, in a January 8th interview with the Global Sisters Report (GSR).
In December, authorities documented more than 225,000 migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border, a record for monthly encounters. It was not a surprise since the government had released figures two months earlier of more than 2.4 million apprehensions at the southern border in the 2023 fiscal year which ended in September.
Some Republican state leaders have transported migrants from border cities to localities run by Democrats, spurring politicians on both sides of the aisle urging the federal government to do something to stop the flow. Some have publicly voiced their frustrations, and Republican and Democrats in the Senate are working together on an agreement: Their deal would grant the Biden’s administration request for money for Ukraine if it agrees to limit a temporary status called humanitarian parole, which has allowed a large number of migrants — including from Ukraine and Nicaragua — to stay in the United States.
For women religious like Sr. Buscher, who work with migrants and refugees in the San Diego area, it’s hard to understand the sentiments.
Sr. Buscher urged people to look more critically at global migration. Conflicts such as Russia’s war against Ukraine; conflicts in place such as continental Africa; economic and political conditions in Latin America; and climate change and hunger, she said, have spurred a global flow of people with the U.S. one of many destinations for migrants.
“These are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It could be any one of us,” she said.
In the Catholic tradition, she said, the Holy Family had to deal with similar challenges as Joseph and Mary fled their homeland to protect the baby Jesus from being killed by King Herod.
Sr. Maria delos Dolores Palencia Gomez, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon, who works with migrants in Mexico, said it’s hard to know what she’d say to U.S. politicians who boast about their Christianity yet “use” anti-immigrant sentiment to attract voters.
“I don’t think it’s possible, as Catholics, to feel exempt from reaching out to a brother or sister. It’s enough to look at [the Gospel of] Matthew, which clearly tells us: you clothed me, I was a foreigner and you welcomed me,” Palencia told GSR during a press conference in Bogotá, Colombia Nov. 24.
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Editor’s note: Global Sisters Report launches a new series, “Welcoming the Stranger,” which takes a closer look at women religious working with immigrants and migrants. The series will feature sisters and organizations networking to better serve those crossing borders, global migration trends and the topic of immigration in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.