Column: The US should listen to Pope Francis’s message on immigration

The pope made a call-for-action to change immigration in the U.S. during his visit this past week.

This past week, Pope Francis made his first visit to the U.S. in what proved to be a historic moment for the country. He visited the U.S. from Sept. 22 to 27 and made appearances in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. He was also the first pope to speak at a joint meeting of Congress.

Pope Francis addressed many issues that have been fervently discussed in the past few weeks during the 2016 presidential debates. In the many speeches he made, Francis often talked about the issue of immigration reform in the U.S. He addressed his concerns about the remarks made by Republicans in the past few weeks. During his address to Congress last Thursday, he stated, “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.”

He tackled the topic again on Saturday, saying it is necessary to defend “the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant.”

The pope’s message comes at a perfect time for the U.S. It has been quite concerning for many citizens to listen to Republicans in debates attacking immigrants just for living in the U.S. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has called for the deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants, and he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to stem the flow of immigration. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has suggested the use of drones and mandatory fingerprinting for all visa holders while neurosurgeon Ben Carson in favor of allowing guest workers to increase the productiveness of our agricultural sector. A poll by the Chicago Council Survey found that 53 percent of people that identify as strong Republicans “view deportation as the best way to address illegal immigration.”

Francis made the right call to talk about immigration to a largely hostile Republican Congress. We need a different attitude toward immigration in this country. Our country needs to help people who have immigrated here by seeing them as people instead of just numbers. It is necessary to provide them with more opportunities to assimilate them into this country.

Francis has instigated a call to action that will hopefully inspire our government to make a change. Many citizens and government officials heed the advice of the pope. According to The Christian Post, nearly 92 percent of representatives in Congress identify as Christians. The Protestants make up 57.2 percent, and 30.7 percent are Roman Catholic. The Washington Post reports that there are about 70 million Americans who identify as Roman Catholic. Many citizens listen to the words of the pope and follow his moral guidance because of their faith. This means that many people heard his words of encouragement toward immigrants and will work to change immigration policy in the long-term.

The pope’s message during his visit to the U.S. last week will, with any luck, inspire lawmakers in Congress to be more open to immigration reform and more tolerant of the immigrants themselves. His calls for reform need to be heard by the Republicans who have taken a hard approach to immigration in this country. After all, the U.S. is a country based upon immigration. We need immigrants to build this country up. As Pope Francis said Saturday, “You should never be ashamed of your traditions.”

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