Looking Immigration Right in the Eye
The highest form of charity is that shown to those unable to reciprocate
and perhaps even to thank us in return.—Pope Francis
Long before immigrants, refugees, and migrants became the subjects of modern-day hot-button political debates, the Catholic Church addressed the question of whether people have the right to emigrate and immigrate. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Part Three: Life in Christ, Section II: The Family and Society” refers to a “right to emigrate” (CCC 2211). It further declares, “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him” (CCC 2241).
Additionally, Catholic social teaching on this subject acknowledges that we don’t live in a perfect world. To imply a simple solution exists in addressing all sides of the immigration crisis would be foolish and false. In a pastoral statement titled “Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: United in Diversity,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) affirms this reality while also offering a balanced perspective on the subject:
While individuals have the right to move in search of a safe and humane life, no country is bound to accept all those who wish to resettle there….