Church leaders, other advocates expect pope to address migration issue
From: Catholic News Service
Date: Aug. 14, 2015
Author: Tom Tracy
Enrique Pumar, a visiting scholar at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, told CNS he doesn't expect Pope Francis to delve into the particulars of U.S. immigration reform.
He does expect the pope will call for a greater degree of humanity that seems lacking in the popular conversation.
"Because of the authority, charisma and popularity of Pope Francis, he has the ability to sell his agenda and make right some issues, and I think immigration will be one of them," said Pumar, adding that the head of the Catholic church naturally has a pastoral stake in global migration matters.
A Cuban-American, Pumar has been working with the Smithsonian Institution's Latino Center to document Hispanic migration to the Washington metropolitan region.
"There are some moral convictions that are part of Catholic doctrine that the pope will interject into the debate. For Catholics, we believe every human has a right to search for a better life and for his family, and that every nation state has a right to regulate its borders with some measure of compassion, some measure of ethics and reflection," Pumar said, noting the top area of public contention remains what to do with the estimated 11.2 million undocumented persons now in the U.S.
"That is a political question that I don't think the pope will get into," Pumar said. "The debate is either deportation or amnesty, but the options are actually wide open. The pope will force us to reflect on the many options that we have and that will enrich the debate."
Julia Young, a Catholic University of America assistant professor of history with focus on the historic Mexican immigration to the U.S., hopes Pope Francis' visit will be an occasion to celebrate immigrants and the hard work of church agencies and staff who provide migrants with legal, material and pastoral care.
"Historically, this is what the Catholic Church is good at: meeting the needs of people, especially mothers and children fleeing violence," said Young, who in 2013 wrote a number of articles offering context to the election of the church's first Latin American-born pontiff.
"It will be interesting to see who attends the Washington events, and I think we will know a lot more when we see who is sitting there and who is included in the crowd and the overall message of the visit," Young told CNS.
She said she would love to see inclusion of those who would benefit from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, known as the DREAM Act, a long-stymied immigration reform bill. They call themselves DREAMers; under Obama's DACA program, they are offered some relief that bill would provide.
"I would love to see the DREAMers there, because I think youth have been so energized by this pope and we saw that in his trip to Rio," Young said. "That would reinforce the pope's own message of showing mercy and treating immigrants not as criminals but as people who need ministry and compassion."