In the past, Pope Francis has not shied away from urging word leaders to show more humanity towards migrants around the globe. This week, during his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis took this message to both the White House and a joint session of Congress.

Within moments of his first public remarks at the White House, the Pope referenced his own immigrant heritage: “As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”

Shortly afterwards, on his parade route, he called over a young child who had broken through the security gate attempting to get close to him. Despite security officer’s attempts to send her back, the Pope called Sophie Cruz, a 5-year-old U.S. citizen whose parents are undocumented, over. Sophie embraced the Pope and then delivered a letter urging him to address immigration reform because she fears that her family will be torn apart if her parents are deported. Sophie’s parents are just two of the millions who could benefit from President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) initiative, which is currently being blocked by a judge in Texas.

In an interview, Sophie explained what her message was to the Pope:

“All immigrants, just like my dad, need this country. They deserve to live with dignity. They deserve to live with respect. They deserve an immigration reform because it benefits my country… Don’t forget about the children, or anyone that suffers because they don’t have their parents.”

During his historic address to Congress, Pope Francis rejected the inhumane rhetoric that seems to be driving the current political debate on immigration and reminded lawmakers to preserve America’s long, proud tradition as a beacon of hope and refuge to millions around the world:

“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”

Additionally, Pope Francis went on to specifically discuss the plight of refugees from Central America to the southern U.S. border seeking protection and the need for a humane response:

“On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.”

The Pope message, most simply put, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” comes at a time when the U.S. government has ramped up its efforts to detain women and children in family detention centers and accelerate legal proceedings that often result in quick deportations back to violent situations. The Pope reminds us that the stories of those arriving at our borders matter and our response should be guided by empathy, compassion and the better angles of our nature.

Hopefully, Pope Francis and Sophie’s messages will stick and guide policymakers to treat all people with compassion and dignity.

Photo Courtesy of Speaker John Boehner.

FILED UNDER: , , , ,