Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

The human face of immigration

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

As Pope Francis has often said, “reality is greater than ideas.” That phrase comes to mind as I reflect on the ill-tempered remarks that are reported in the media vilifying migrants entering the United States. Words such as “criminals” and “terrorists,” among other depictions that portray these suffering families as subhuman because of their ethnicity or race, are very disturbing and just plain wrong. These words, and the ideas behind them, do not match the reality that we as a church have experienced over centuries of welcoming newcomers.

Many of our own family members who came to these shores were often victimized by such rhetoric and suffered as a result as they tried to find their place in society, and a better, safer life for themselves and their families. Yet they pressed on and made enormous contributions to the nation. And today, as we listen to the stories of the latest migrants and asylum seekers, we hear once again stories of great heroism of people who simply want a better life for themselves and their families, and who also have a deep desire to contribute to our nation, much like our forebears have done.

Recently I received an update on how the Archdiocese of Chicago and Catholic Charities are teaming up with parishes and local and state governments to assist asylum seekers and migrants coming to Chicagoland. Through this cooperative effort, we are securing safe housing environments with the involvement of onsite 24/7 security, providing legal and translation services and ESL classes, and accompanying those who suffered great trauma making their way to the U.S. by offering counseling.

The reality is that newcomers are here, and they have needs that we can help to address. The work we’ve done through public/private partnerships, through private acts of welcoming, and of course with the support of generous parishioners, reminds us of all we can do when we work together to welcome the stranger.

The archdiocese is placing special emphasis on helping migrants to transition more quickly into longer term housing — and employment. The sooner newcomers experience stability in their lives, the quicker they will move to independent living.

What have we discovered in offering these services? We have found that these people are highly motivated to work and move on. Every day we witness with admiration how those who have secured employment leave for their jobs early in the morning and come home late at night. They want to improve the lot of their families and are willing to sacrifice a great deal for them.

Their example inspires us to match the initiative of these families by providing wraparound services for their transition toward independent living. We have found them very receptive to our efforts to integrate them into society, as we work to exemplify core values such as respecting others, working hard, being accountable and open to learning.

Again, the migrants we assist are highly motivated to succeed and become contributing members of society, and it is morally wrong to demean their human dignity. We should forcefully come to their defense.

No doubt our immigration system is broken and needs serious attention. Yes, the United States has a duty and right to secure its borders, and we must be honest about the reality of limited resources. But addressing these concerns comprehensively rests on the shoulders of our elected leaders, who should not avoid their obligations by scapegoating those seeking a better life, just as our ancestors did.

I am grateful for the generosity of donors who have helped in these resettlement efforts. You remind us of our obligation to welcome the stranger, as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Indeed, providing such welcome is one of the tests Christ established for how we come to recognize him in this world — and how he will recognize us in the next. You also remind us to be suspicious of ideas when they become detached from realities.



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