WASP’s (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants) call them pilgrims, those brave men and women who sought sanctuary on our shores at Plymouth Rock, and we have an entire national feast to celebrate their arrival every November, Thanksgiving.
Our culture calls them immigrants, folks who have come to America from the start in the noble search for freedom, justice, peace, and a better life.
We Catholics usually call them “Mom,” “Dad,” “Grandma,” “Grandpa” and “fellow parishioner,” as we are proudly part of a Church called Catholic, which means, “universal,” or, as James Joyce described, “Here comes everybody!”
Thus, from the beginning, the Catholic community has been vigorously pro-immigrant, for a number of good reasons.
For one, because they – - the immigrants – - are us! We are welcoming to them because our grandparents were immigrants! We’re glad America opened the door to earlier generations. Now it’s our turn. With Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the bay it’s especially hard, to be a Catholic in New York, and not be pro-immigrant.
Two, we Catholics are vigorous in promoting a fair and open immigration policy because of our faith, which teaches that every person, no matter where they’re from, is a child of God, made in His image and likeness, and deserving of dignity and respect. No one deserves to live in the shadows, in a divided family, fearing deportation, because of harsh policies.
Three, we urge immigration reform because we are loyal Americans, who recognize that a fair, measured welcome to immigrants and refugees has always strengthened our beloved nation, hardly weakened it.
Thus do we watch closely the current efforts to reform an immigration policy that everyone acknowledges to be deeply flawed. We’re grateful to our political leaders who have bravely worked together for this reform – - including our own Senator Schumer – - and for the broad coalition of religious leaders who are with us on this one.
Our Statue of Liberty looks so good in our harbor; let’s not make her blush in embarrassment by failing to bring this noble cause to pass!