As our country nears a showdown on immigration policy and we at Georgetown University worry about the plight of our own “Dreamers,” the recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, I find myself turning to scripture more than ever.

Our Jesuit and Catholic values shape how we care for immigrants, whatever their legal status. Catholic social teaching stands on this fundamental premise: The God of the Bible is a God of liberation, a God of migrants. As the biblical scholar Fr. Dominik Markl, S.J., argues, “The Bible is a library written by migrants.”  

The Book of Genesis is brimming with stories of flight and migration: Adam and Eve are chased from Paradise; the patriarch Abraham emigrates from what is now Iraq into a new homeland; and the patriarch Jacob takes his family into Egypt because of terrible famine.  

The story of Jacob’s son Joseph — and the amazing technicolor dream-coat — all takes place in a foreign land of strangers. Years later, while still in Egypt, the Israelites become an enslaved people, and they flee across the Red Sea. In short, it is as refugees that the Israelites become the people of God.

Throughout the Law of Moses, the protection of foreigners is at the heart of the Covenant with God: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).  

This sense of the migrant, the migratory, the refugee, the alien, is echoed in the infancy narrative of Jesus of Nazareth, whose family travels from Nazareth to Bethlehem for an imperial census, only later to flee as refugees to Egypt because of persecution by King Herod. When Jesus begins his ministry, he becomes an itinerant preacher who — unlike foxes who have dens and birds who have nests — has no place to rest his head (Luke 9:58).

In the early church, the disciples undertake journeys all over the Roman Empire, with Saints Peter and Paul ending up in the imperial city of Rome, where they come to know firsthand the dangers of xenophobia.  

What a contrast between these stories of immigrants full of hope and liberation and, in our time, the fear-mongering and rhetorical evasions heard in the halls of power in Washington, D.C.  

We forget where we came from and where we are going. As Pope Francis reminded us on his visit to the United States, we are a nation of immigrants and a nation of refugees.  

All of us at Georgetown are important players in this moment. The diversity of people who live, work and study here goes back to the founding days of the institution.

I am edified by the hard work of Georgetown students, faculty and administrators who are writing their members of Congress, holding rallies and leading seminars in defense of DACA recipients.

I am excited for Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, N.J., to come to Dahlgren Chapel on Feb. 5 to speak about sharing the journey with immigrants and refugees. Tobin has been prophetic in his call for the Catholic Church and the community to welcome refugees despite government opposition.

Let us pray and politic this coming week to pass legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and offering ways to protect our immigrant communities. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J., is the vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown University. As This Jesuit Sees It appears online every other Monday.

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One Comment

  1. Manuel A. Miranda says:

    Dear Father,

    I appreciate your contribution. How could one not? But you could have stopped with the Golden Rule. That said, I am disappointed in Georgetown’s efforts for Dreamers and they strike me as cynical and partisan. The real suffering is with the parents of Dreamers and the parents of birthright citizens (anchor babies), not well educated, enormously blessed Georgetown Dreamers.

    If ever Georgetown wants to lead in a serious manner to bring an end to this human tragedy let me know and I will be glad to add my immigrant voice.

    And the tragedy includes the towns in our home countries left empty of men, wives abandoned, children without fathers. The plight of GU’s Dreamers is as if nothing by comparison to the harm we have done for 20 years.

    Manuel A. Miranda

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