The Catholic Church in the United States celebrates National Migration Week September 19-25 to encourage the faithful to reflect on the circumstances faced by migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking. The celebration comes amid an increasingly heated political debate over immigration policies in the country ahead of midterm elections in November.
September 19, 2022
Migrants gather after being airlifted from Texas to Edgartown, Massachusetts (Ray Ewing 2022)
WASHINGTON: As dioceses across the United States prepare to celebrate National Migration Week September 19-25, the U.S. Bishops invite the faithful to meet, accompany, pray, and reach out to all migrants and refugees, displaced persons, and victims of human trafficking.
World Day for Migrants and Refugees
The national week has been observed annually by the Catholic Church in the United States since 1980 in conjunction with the Vatican’s World Day for Migrants and Refugees (WDMR), celebrated on the last Sunday in September to encourage Catholics around the world to express concern for vulnerable people on the move, to unite in prayer and to raise awareness of the opportunities that migration can provide.
A critical moment to reflect on the issue of migration
“This week offers a special opportunity for encounter, accompaniment and prayer, as well as a chance for Catholics and others of goodwill to come together in support of those who depend on our collective voice,” a statement said. the chairman of the United States Bishops’ Committee on Migration, Archbishop Mario E. Dorsonville, noting that “there has never been a more critical time to reflect on the issue of migration, as we witness , for the first time in history, to more than 100 million forcibly displaced people in the world”.
Building the future with migrants and refugees
The prelate draws attention in particular to the fate of Ukrainians fleeing the war in their country, and Afghan asylum seekers fleeing the Taliban regime. He also mentions the so-called “Dreamers” – young undocumented immigrants who were illegally brought to the United States as children, and who lived and went to school there -, those who benefit from temporary protections and undocumented agricultural workers. All of these people, he stresses, “have an important role to play in building the future of our country, just as they have a role in building the Kingdom of God.”
“Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees”, is the theme of this year’s National Migration Week, in line with that chosen by Pope Francis for WDMR 2022. In his annual message, the Holy Father emphasizes that no one can be excluded from the building work that leads to the Kingdom of God. “God’s plan,” he says, “is essentially inclusive and prioritizes those living on the existential peripheries. Among them are many migrants and refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking.
A political issue that divides
As in many other countries, immigration and border security policies continue to be a politically divisive topic in the United States, with increasingly stark divisions between Republicans and Democrats. As November’s midterm elections approach, debate on the issue has become even more polarized.
Tensions reached a new height this week when Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election in November, ferried about 50 Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a wealthy Massachusetts resort town, in part of a tactic aimed at where Republican-run states have shipped busloads of migrants to liberal strongholds like Washington and New York to protest President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
Local residents, alongside Christian charities, joined in providing relief and shelter to Latin American migrants, before they were transferred Friday to a military base on Cape Cod where they were given a place to sleep and services, including health care and access to advice.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston praised their generous support. “As is often the case, human tragedy evokes moral goodness,” he said. “The citizens of Martha’s Vineyard have shown us all how common humanity motivates generosity and effective kindness.”
Cardinal O’Malley: Immigration policies are a moral challenge
In his statement, the American cardinal, who also heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, recalled that immigration policies and practices constitute a “permanent moral, legal and political challenge” for the country, and noted that during For too long the United States has delayed developing an effective response to immigrants, migrants and refugees “at a time when the movement of men, women, children and families surpasses any other example known in our history” .
“Our common humanity is the lens through which our response to immigrants and refugees must be judged,” Cardinal O’Malley stressed, recalling that Pope Francis has made the plight of immigrants and refugees a constant theme of his pontificate .