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The King of Kings, the Migrant of Migrants: Do Not Fear, Do Not Mistreat the Migrant

Flight to Egypt

From Archbishop Wenski’s (Archbishop of Miami) homily on immigration reform at a welcome Mass upon his arrival in the Archdiocese, for the myriad ethnic com-munities of Miami.

Our world today is increasingly globalized: Pope Benedict XVI said that globalization has made us all neighbors but it has not made us brothers.

Part of the globalization we experience today is the fact of migration. In a globalized world, goods and merchandize made in one continent are bought and sold in another, half a world away; information and money can cross borders in an instant; and, in a globalize world, people also increasingly move across borders – often in dramatic ways.

The Church teaches us not to fear the migrant – and the Church warns us not to mistreat the migrant. In a way, just as we call Jesus the King of Kings, we can refer to him as the Migrant of Migrants as well. In becoming a man like us, he “migrated” from heaven. He became a citizen of our world so that we in turn might become citizens of the world to come. And those who will enter into his heavenly homeland, will do so because, as he himself will tell us: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me”.

So we can draw a parallel to Jesus’ coming among us as man and a newcomer’s arrival in a strange land – in this way, perhaps we can contemplate the face of Jesus in the visage of the immigrant.  The divisive debates on immigration reform, too often immigrants – especially the undocumented -are demonized, seen as threats, and not as our brothers and sisters, or even among the “least” of his brothers and sisters.

Xenophobic politics that focus on the “illegal immigrant” as a problem obscures the human face of immigration. Dramatic, “get-tough” arrests of poor low wage workers will not solve our immigration crisis. In fact, such actions often engender more confusion and bitterness. The real problem is not the immigrant but the broken system that cynically tolerates a growing underclass of vulnerable people, outside the protection of the law.  Their labor is needed yet the present immigration regime does not provide them or their employers with the necessary avenues which would allow them to access the system and become legal. No human being should be reduced to being a “problem”.  Such reductive thinking demonizes the “illegal immigrant” and ultimately dehumanizes us all.

Like the immigrant who arrives to our land, the Eternal Son of God through his Incarnation pitched his tent in our midst.  And like Jesus who was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn, today, even while they toil as jobs that Americans can not or will not do, immigrants hear again what Mary and Joseph heard in Bethlehem two millennia ago: there is no room in the inn for you.  And like many of you here today, Jesus too was a refugee, a political refugee forced to flee from the despotic tyranny of King Herod.

This is why the Church will continue to speak out on behalf of migrants everywhere. We speak out in defense of those, especially the young, who are trafficked across borders to be exploited in the sex trade. We will continue to advocate for a just and equitable reform of a broken immigration system that continues to separate families for unacceptable periods of time and that provides no path to citizenship for millions who work in jobs that otherwise would have gone unfilled. We will defend the rights of refugees and asylum seekers for a safe haven from persecution and violence.

The newcomer – regardless of legal status – is a human person, he is a brother, and she is a sister with a claim on our solidarity. And because of that solidarity we must build not walls but bridges.

Houston Catholic Worker , Vol. XXX, No. 4, August-October 2010.