DeSantis, Abbott, Ducey And Migrant Week

DeSantis, Abbott, Ducey And Migrant Week September 22, 2022

Gage Skidmore: DeSantis / flickr

“The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Ps. 146:9 RSV). The wicked show no respect to sojourners, to migrants who have left their homes and families out of necessity; instead of welcoming them with the hospitality they should be given, they treat such sojourners with contempt; the worse migrants are treated, the longer their needs are neglected, the worse the consequences will be for those who abuse them (or lend their support to such abuse). This is something which God made extremely clear to the people of Israel. God reminded them that they once had been migrants who, during their journey to Israel, experienced similar mistreatment. Since they received help from God, they should help any sojourner who comes to them in similar need: “Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:29 RSV). What happened to them in their history, such as the Babylonian Exile, was in part a result of the way they forgot where they came from and the expectations that placed upon them. Once they experienced the pain and sorrow which resulted from their rejection of social justice and its demands, including the solidarity they should have for other sojourners, they were told that God could forgive them and help restore to them what they lost if they repented and changed their ways:

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt,  then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever(Jer. 7:5-7 RSV).

The hospitality which the people of Israel were expected to give to strangers, to migrants, is an expectation which continued into the New Covenant with Christ, and so remains for Christians. This is why, even those who were themselves not a part of the Mosaic Covenant, were told that they were to be hospitable to strangers, being told, if they were, they might receive many blessings for doing so: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2 RSV).

Despite the way Scripture warns against mistreating migrants, many Christians seem to have nothing but contempt for them, finding all kinds of excuses to justify abusing them. This is why many Christian support the outrageous actions Republican Governors DeSantis, Abbot, and Ducey, where they not only lied to such migrants, they did so as a way to use them as political pawns while making it difficult if not impossible for them to get the help they needed. These governors moved migrants, including many seeking asylum, out of their states to other states, promising them jobs and help if they went to where they were being sent (while, sadly, no such aid was ready for them, indeed, all they were was dropped off, without any concern what happened to them next).This made things much more difficult for them, for they were moved far away from where they needed to report to in order to sustain their status in the United States. Cruelty seems to be one of the reasons for these actions. While many rightfully criticize what the governors did, leading some to look into whether or not their actions were illegal, not all were upset for this reason. Former president Donald Trump was mad, not because he disagreed with what they did, but out of jealousy, as he wished he had such power, as well as fear that they are taking the spotlight away from him:

In recent days, Donald Trump has privately voiced his anger over Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis sending planeloads of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Trump’s displeasure, however, has nothing to do with moral revulsions at the governor using human beings as unsuspecting pawns for a political attack. Instead, Trump is telling allies and confidants he’s outraged that DeSantis seems to think he’s allowed to steal the ex-president’s mantle as both media star, and as undocumented-immigrant-basher-in-chief.[1]

There is, therefore, a spirit of hate for the poor and needy, for those who come to the United States seeking asylum, by Republicans seeking political power. Such Republicans seem to be fighting with each other to prove which among them can and will do the greatest evil, because, by doing so, they believe they will demonstrate they have the most power and so will be seen as the true leader of the Republican party. This should tell us who and what they are, and why we must not support them, but rather, consider it a moral necessity to stand in opposition to what they are doing. Christians, moreover, should be in solidarity with the migrants, standing against the politicians who wish them harm, speaking up in new uncertain terms that such evil policies not only are unacceptable, because it is Christian teaching. Christians should help make sure that those who do such evil should be judged by the laws which they break. The Catholic Bishop’s Conference in Florida was right when it said in response to this news that what is at stake is innocent lives who need our support:

Immigration is not just a political issue, but a fundamental human and moral issue. For immigrants are not faceless numbers – but human persons. They are our brothers and sisters.

Our broken immigration system is a problem; but immigrants themselves are not “problems.” Immigrants have been good for America, and America has been good for them. [2]

Sadly, so long as we allow such abuse, the United States will be resisting its best principles, and everyone, migrants and Americans alike, will suffer as a result. Migrants can and should contribute much to our society, even as we have much to offer them. When we look at them with contempt, and try to make things as difficult as possible for them to get the help they need, let alone the welcome which they are owed, this will not happen; indeed, American society will only further decline as it becomes more and more unwelcoming, more and more uncharitable, that is, more and more tyrannical.

This news came to us right before  Catholics celebrate National Migration Week, and with it, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on the 25th of September. Pope Francis, many months ago, prepared a message for this week, one which has proven very apropos:

No one must be excluded. God’s plan is essentially inclusive and gives priority to those living on the existential peripheries. Among them are many migrants and refugees, displaced persons, and victims of trafficking. The Kingdom of God is to be built with them, for without them it would not be the Kingdom that God wants. The inclusion of those most vulnerable is the necessary condition for full citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Indeed, the Lord says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:34-36).[3]

Francis understood what many Republicans seem not to understand: it is unfruitful for a country to close itself off from migrants, for it is only through the influx of “outsiders” that it can have a healthy society:

In Isaiah’s prophecy, the arrival of foreigners is presented as a source of enrichment: “The abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, and the wealth of the nations shall come to you” (Is 60:5). Indeed, history teaches us that the contribution of migrants and refugees has been fundamental to the social and economic growth of our societies. This continues to be true in our own day. Their work, their youth, their enthusiasm and their willingness to sacrifice enrich the communities that receive them. Yet this contribution could be all the greater were it optimized and supported by carefully developed programs and initiatives. Enormous potential exists, ready to be harnessed, if only it is given a chance. [4]

We should think of migrants as resources to use as a cheap labor force, but rather, we should recognize their unique gifts, including much which comes from their cultural heritages, are necessary for society to continue to develop and become better, even as the countries they move to offers much which they need to survive. Those societies which neglect them, or abuse them, will suffer the consequences as it finds itself decaying from its internal rot. This can be seen as one of the reasons why those nations who ignore or abuse strangers will eventually collapse in upon itself as if judged by God. Thus, we should heed the words of Pope Francis and work for a better future by welcoming, and supporting, migrants:

Dear brothers and sisters, and, in a special way, young people! If we want to cooperate with our heavenly Father in building the future, let us do so together with our brothers and sisters who are migrants and refugees. Let us build the future today! For the future begins today and it begins with each of us. We cannot leave to future generations the burden of responsibility for decisions that need to be made now, so that God’s plan for the world may be realized and his Kingdom of justice, fraternity, and peace may come. [5]

It is imperative that the actions of DeSantis, Abbott, and Ducey are condemned, not only be secular authorities if they are found to have violated the law, but by Christians, who must stand with God in support of the sojourners. As they are Catholics, Catholic bishops must respond to their actions and the scandal which they provoke. Here, we are not talking about mere theory, or permitting evil to be done, but actual evil is being done by so-called Catholics, evil which Scripture and tradition consistently have said cries up to heaven expecting a response from God. If this doesn’t happen, if society doesn’t make sure such politicians are removed from power, and their bishops don’t make sure they repent from their evil, we risk suffering as a society the way the people of Israel suffered for their own neglect of social justice.


[1] Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, “Trump Fumes: DeSantis Stole My Plan For Shipping Migrants” in Rolling Stone (9-18-2022).

[2] Florida Conference of Bishops. “State On The Transportation Of Migrants” (9-16-2022).

[3] Pope Francis, “Message For The 108th World Day Of Migrants And Refugees (9-25-2022).” Vatican Translation, (5-9-2022)

[4] Pope Francis, “Message For The 108th World Day Of Migrants And Refugees (9-25-2022).

[5] Pope Francis, “Message For The 108th World Day Of Migrants And Refugees (9-25-2022).

 

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