Jesus’ miraculous presence in the womb of Mary is often highlighted to illustrate the dignity of the unborn child. But these days, the life of Christ is also particularly helpful in allowing us to see and remember the dignity of the immigrant child.
When Jesus was just a child, his family fled their home to avoid persecution from Herod. How many children and their families have fled Latin American countries for the same reasons? We must acknowledge that Jesus and the Holy Family’s dangerous journey into Egypt is attempted again and again by families today seeking a home in the United States. Can we see Christ in those who seek refuge in our land? Can we comprehend our responsibility to protect those fleeing violence and seeking freedom?
When we examine the issue in this way, it becomes clear that comprehensive immigration must be considered a valued part of the Church’s pro-life efforts, as a large group of Catholic leaders just acknowledged. For far too many, this is an issue of life and death.
Every year pro-life marchers convene on Washington, D.C. in (the often blistering cold of) January. This year at the March for Life, we should not just march for Jesus Christ the Unborn Child but also for Jesus Christ the Immigrant Child. And we should demand comprehensive immigration reform.
If the pro-life movement wants to achieve success in today’s culture, it cannot take an overly narrow approach in defining what constitutes a ‘life issue.’ Abortion and the death penalty are pro-life issues, but they are not the only ones. Given what we have witnessed in recent years and the powerful action undertaken by the Bishops to stand for the dignity of migrants, comprehensive immigration reform must be considered an important pro-life issue.
We cannot continue to remain silent while we hear the cries of our immigrant brothers and sisters at our border—where families are broken and split apart. Children are taken from parents, parents taken from children. Immigrants are kept in privately-funded deportation centers, separated from loved ones, and treated in ways that do not reflect their dignity as persons.
It is clear to nearly everyone that the United States immigration system is broken. The path to citizenship remains elusive for many, while deportations increase. President Obama’s executive action is only a first step in achieving the type of immigration reform that is needed. It is estimated that there are 11 million immigrants living in the shadows in the United States. We need congressional action to get to the heart of the problem.
President Obama has put more money into securing our borders than any other president. He deported more immigrants in his first term than George W. Bush did in two. Policies that work only to secure our borders are inadequate. This not the type of nation our faith calls us to be.
Time and time again God shows us His saving love. In the Old Testament, God led the Israelites from slavery. In the New Testament, God led Jesus and the Holy Family from persecution. Today, God leads those who are desperately fleeing their homelands seeking freedom and sanctuary in the United States.
If we truly value the sanctity of life as our Catholic faith demands, then we cannot continue to ignore the immigrants who live among us. Their lives matter. Their dignity matters.
Pope Francis has said, “Jesus Christ is always waiting to be recognized in migrants and refugees, in displaced persons and in exiles, and through them he calls us to share our resources, and occasionally to give up something of our acquired riches.”
It is time for us to welcome these aspiring Americans into our midst and into our society. It is time to march for comprehensive immigration reform and hold Jesus the Immigrant Child close to our hearts.
Jes Stevens is a Loretto Volunteer working for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good in Washington D.C.