I was ‘a stranger and you gave me no welcome’
In the Gospel account of the “Judgement of the Nations,” Jesus warns us that not attending to the basic needs of our suffering brothers and sisters for food, drink, clothing, companionship, and welcome alienates us from him – possibly eternally so.
Among his clear warnings here is “I was … a stranger and you gave me no welcome” (see: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/25).
Jesus’ warning is so strong, so jolting because Jesus most especially identifies with the vulnerable and poor. And thus, so should we. Not only because our eternal soul is on the line, but also because if we love like Jesus, then our compassionate hearts will naturally reach out to our suffering brothers and sisters.
And among the most desperate are those who have no place to call home – especially our brothers and sisters who have no viable option other than to flee their native country due to extreme poverty, gang violence, armed conflicts and/or increasingly severe weather events. But sadly, many wealthy nations continue to largely turn a blind eye to the desperate plight of migrants, refugees and asylees.
Pope Francis has condemned Europe’s treatment of migrants as “disgusting, sinful and criminal” (see: https://to.pbs.org/3iEBmHx).
And another overwhelmingly heartless example of this, is the recent announcement that U.S. President Biden’s administration will continue former President Trump’s cold-hearted policy known as Title 42, which overrides national and international law guaranteeing migrants the right to apply for asylum, and instead will largely continue to bar migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S.
U.S. Title 42, enacted in 1944 to prohibit the entry of migrants when serious danger exists in the spread of communicable diseases, has been unfairly applied during Covid-19. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “There was – and remains – no public health evidence that singling out asylum seekers or other migrants for exclusion is effective in stemming the spread of Covid-19” (see: https://bit.ly/3iGAfqR).
The recent Biden administration announcement to continue Title 42 is specifically aimed at rapidly expelling migrants/asylum seekers from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua. He said, “Do not just show up at the border.”
As a concession of sorts, the Biden administration will allow up to 30,000 people from those three nations, including Venezuela, to apply for entry into the U.S. each month, for a stay of only two years.
The Sisters of Mercy, in an action alert, state that this process favors those with means, as applicants must have a passport, a plane ticket, and a U.S. financial sponsor; placing heavy burdens on the most vulnerable asylum seekers. Please send the Biden administration a strong message of objection found at this link https://bit.ly/3Xv1hjM.
Because the U.S. and other rich nations are largely closing legal doors to immigration, desperate migrants will continue to be forced to choose dangerous routes of entry in the hope of filling vacant low-paying jobs to help support their very poor families.
Unlike poor U.S. citizens, undocumented workers and their families cannot receive food stamps, Medicaid, or housing assistance. They are at the lowest rung of American life.
St. John XXIII, in his encyclical “Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth)” wrote, “Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own country; and, when there are just reasons for it, the right to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there.”
Readers in the U.S., please email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) your two U.S. senators and House representative urging them to pass long overdue fair, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.
Lord Jesus, heal our indifference, and inspire us to welcome these strangers as valuable members of your one human family, so that on the Day of Judgment we may gladly hear you say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at email@example.com.