Pope Francis has been an outspoken leader about the need to welcome immigrants and refugees in our communities. This past Thursday, he continued his positive track record of expressing compassion for immigrants and refugees when he addressed Congress. He invoked the Golden Rule held by many faith traditions – do unto others as we would have them do unto us. He said, “Thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?” In other words, we are all children of God, regardless of our country of origin, and immigrants and refugees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
The Pope’s visit and influence on issues of immigration and family unity come at a crucial time. Sixty million people are displaced globally, including more than 10 million Syrian refugees and tens of thousands of immigrant children and families held in detention in the United States — all of whom have fled the violence, crime, and extreme poverty of their home countries. Locally, the North Carolina Senate voted 32-11 to ban counties and municipalities from having “sanctuary city” policies that limit enforcement of immigration laws. If enacted, this bill will make it more difficult for local police and sheriffs to establish the identity of people in our communities, particularly immigrant residents, which will make their jobs harder and more dangerous. I pray that the words of St. Francis will soften the hearts and minds of lawmakers in order to put a halt to this anti-immigrant legislation when the House votes on the bill Monday night. Please consider contacting your local representatives if you feel the same way.
Next week, our annual Clergy Breakfast series on immigration kicks off in Wrightsville Beach with the first of its six stops across the state. This event will have a special focus on refugees, spotlighting speakers from a local missional church with a refugee ministry and representatives from Catholic Charities sharing stories about their work with local immigrants. From there we continue to Fayetteville, Morganton, Weaverville, Cary, and Henderson. Please consider attending one of these important events. It is crucial that faith leaders and people of faith help to put a halt to anti-immigrant legislation and push back against the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has dominated this election cycle. This can only be done through education and cooperation. We need to work together and use the connections across our denominations to change the hearts and minds of our lawmakers.