Father Eugene Hemrick

“The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom; whatever else you get, get understanding” (Prv. 4:7).

The Book of Proverbs offers counsel for solving the complexities of immigration.

To understand the important role immigration fulfills is to understand God’s use of it. In the early pages of Genesis, God tells Abraham to take his possessions and migrate to the land of Canaan from Haran (Gn. 12:1-6).

Like Abraham, so too do Moses, the Hebrews and numerous biblical figures become immigrants. In these cases, immigration is God’s means for emancipation, elevating people’s lives and spreading the word of God.

Immigration represents hope of a new and enhanced life. Understood in this light, it promotes one of the three theological virtues that contains the grace needed to withstand despair and despondency: hope. It fortifies the human spirit by enabling people to look forward to the promise of new horizons.

The word “civil” contains the idea of home. A home-like spirit is imperative for immigration to succeed. It is the welcoming spirit that Bernini’s colonnades inspire at St. Peter’s in Rome: open arms extending to everyone as brothers and sisters in a spirit of solidarity.

Some people fear immigrants will introduce bad elements into their culture. The U.S. bishops see them differently: Immigrants are a rich gift enhancing the life of the church and nation. Immigrants amplify life’s largesse.

When people wall off themselves to keep out undesirables, fear and paranoia are reinforced. Worst of all, walls represent turning one’s back away from others instead of turning toward ways of creating conversion, reconciliation and fraternity.

Our God-given responsibility is to be God’s co-creator, working to improve and develop humanity. When we translate this responsibility, it means defending the dignity of immigrants who are fleeing undignified, degrading situations.

Understanding prompts us to reflect on what has just been discussed here and to see the necessity of a moral compass when responding to immigration.

Without God’s wisdom, treating immigration justly will falter. Without reverence for the hope it creates, despair will prevail. Without a spirit of reconciliation, redemption and solidarity, objections, unfounded doubts and naysaying will continue to hinder progress.

Without the law of God, laws concerning immigration have little to no possibility of succeeding.