ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM SWEDEN – While countries should be open to taking in refugees and migrants in need they also must be prudent about only accepting as many as they can integrate into their societies, Pope Francis said.
In a press conference aboard the papal flight back to Rome after a two-day visit to Sweden, the pontiff was asked about countries that have accepted large numbers of migrants but are now considering stricter border controls.
“I believe that … you cannot close your heart to a refugee,” said Francis, but added that governments must use prudence to “make a calculation for how [refugees] can be settled because you must not only receive refugees but proceed to integrate them.”
“If a country has a capacity of 20 for integration, let’s say, do it up to that,” the pope suggested. “If more, do more.”
I think my favorite quotation from it, aside from the ones quoted above, is this one: “The migrant must be treated with certain rules, because to emigrate is a right, but it is a very regulated right.”
Some people seem to think the pope supports unrestricted immigration. In fact, he seems to believe that immigration “must” be done according to the rules. He even used the superlative “very” in reference to immigration being regulated. I am reminded that the USA, if my understanding is correct, has the most welcoming policy toward immigrants in the world. If so, we are perhaps the leaders in following most closely the Church’s ideals on this matter. If we are the standard bearers, I don’t think it’s inherently wrong to believe in deporting violators of our immigration laws. That seems to be just enforcing the “very regulated” immigration standards that the pope seems to support. The immigrant “must” follow the rules, so long as they are not wicked rules.
Quite the opposite, he has labelled the Mediterranean Sea a “graveyard” for the number of fleeing refugees from Syria who have drowned there trying to get to Europe and characterised the failure to accommodate these people as being some sort of collective stain upon the moral conscience of Europe.
Of course, a country or a continent must exercise discretion about who we let in.
But if someone is in desperate need and already living in our country, charity surely demands that we do not simply deport them.
Here is what the Pope said and did back in April about the European deportations:
**Pope Francis makes provocative trip to Greece amid EU deportations
Pope Francis made an emotional visit to Greece on Saturday to thank its people for welcoming migrants and meet with refugees as the European Union implements a controversial plan to deport them back to Turkey…
Many refugees fell to their knees and wept as Francis approached them at the Moria detention center on the Greek island of Lesbos. Others chanted ``Freedom! Freedom!’’ as he passed by. Francis bent down as one young girl knelt at his feet sobbing uncontrollably. A woman told the pope that her husband was in Germany, but that she was stuck with her two sons in Lesbos.
``Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names stories and need to be treated as such,’’ Francis tweeted.
During a brief meeting at the airport, Francis thanked Tsipras for the ``generosity’’ shown by the Greek people in welcoming foreigners despite their own economic troubles and called for a response to the migration crisis that respects European and international law, the Vatican said.**
Of course, we also have to have a fair, non-prejudiced expectation when it comes to assimilation and integration. Obviously immigrants should be expected to obey the local laws and encouraged/helped to learn the dominant language if they don’t already know it … but they shouldn’t be expected to give up their religion, their cultural customs, or the use of their native language among fellow speakers. Some things may change naturally over generations, as it has with previous waves of immigrants as the kids seek to be more part of the mainstream culture they see around them, but at least here in the U.S. we still have plenty of ethnic and subcultural enclaves that do no harm but enhance the rich mixture that makes up our society.
As hundreds of refugees stepped off the plane in McGuire Airbase in New Jersey, some could be heard chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.”
They hadn’t been well prepared for the trip — many carried little more luggage than a plastic shopping bag and others were stifled by their big winter jackets in the warm spring — but they seemed jubilant. One of the new arrivals told The Washington Post that he was excited, as he loved American culture, especially cinema.
“Thrillers, action films, anything,” 19-year-old Albert Kasumaj explained.
It was May 6, 1999, and the United States had just received its first airlifted refugees from Kosovo, fleeing the violence of troops loyal to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. In total, the United States had agreed to take in 20,000 or so refugees. The vast majority of these people, if not all, were Muslims.
This stance on illegal immigration by Republican politicos and pundits is obviously light-years from the experience and position of many ordinary people. Take McCain’s oft-repeated trope of “living in the shadows.” Seriously? Illegal alien young people openly protest on live television, knowing they are not going to be deported. Millions visit emergency rooms for free, and wrangle food stamps, welfare transfers, school lunches, and all sorts of largess, all the while they live protected by “sanctuary cities.” And “living in the shadows” doesn’t deter them from committing felonies, given that even if caught, convicted, and deported, they’ll soon be back. Remember Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the illegal alien deported five times, who murdered Kate Steinle? Or Angel Gilberto Garcia-Avalos, another five-time deportee who just this month started a $61 million fire in Sequoia National Park? He had just been released from the Kern County Jail, but could not be deported because of California’s lunatic sanctuary city law, which prohibits a sheriff from contacting federal agents.