By Chloe Schwabe, Advocacy Associate
As I listened to the homily on the Feast of St Francis Xavier at the US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB) conference on immigration reform in Atlanta, December 3-5, I was reminded how St Francis Xavier was a migrant, how every missionary is migrant, how Adam and Eve migrated out of the garden, and how Jesus and his family were undocumented migrants in the land of Egypt. People have been forced to migrate since the beginning of time. As we prepare to celebrate and welcome the birth of Jesus, we are also preparing in Atlanta to welcome the face of Christ reflected in all children of God. For the first time in a long time, we have a chance to create new immigration policies that lift 11 million migrants out of the shadows who are working hard for their families and the communities where we all live, work, and worship.
The conference brought together hundreds of Catholics serving migrant communities and advocating for more humane policies for our brothers, sisters, and all of us. One of the conference highlights was Father Daniel Groody, C.S.C., who spoke about Migration and the Eucharist. He described how the immigrant is at once a mirror of the human journey, a reflection of God, and an invitation to human solidarity.
He sees a new way forward that combines Development, Hospitality, and Solidarity (DHS). Fr. Groody’s framework raises these questions: How can both sending and receiving countries, as well as international financial institutions create meaningful development opportunities in foreign countries? How can we as people of faith be more welcoming to new Americans who face stigmatization and marginalization when they already had to overcome so many hardships to come here? Lastly, how can we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters to ensure that our communities are welcoming and that the root causes of migration- violence, a lack of economic opportunities from faulty trade policies, and persecution?
Also on the agenda were policy discussions such as current inequities in access to health care, education, and driver’s licenses, as well as the consequences of allowing local police act as immigration officials. These policies are creating hardships, tearing apart families and communities, and dehumanizing the many individuals who have already overcome challenging situations that forced them to migrate in the first place.
In this season of Advent we walk with the Holy Family, a family of immigrants. December 18th is International Migrants’ Day. It is also the day that many Hispanics begin the traditional Posadas (inn) celebration which is a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph in a foreign land searching for a place to lay their head until they were welcomed at the inn.
I left Atlanta encouraged that we have a real chance to create a comprehensive immigration policy that reflects the One Body of Christ. It is our job to ensure that this policy is founded in faithful values that emulate justice for all. We hope that you join us and lift up your moral voice to build a welcoming country for all based in God’s love.
Start here by sending a letter to your members of Congress to pass the DREAM Act to make college affordable to thousands of immigrant youth who have made their way through the U.S, education system. It is one step towards a broader comprehensive reform effort.