A number of churches throughout the United States are preparing to offer sanctuary to immigrants are in the country illegally. They are doing so as part of a commitment to care for the vulnerable. Following Pope Francis’ call to solidarity with migrants and welcoming the stranger, many Catholic parishes are discerning whether to offer space to one or more families facing the threat of deportation.
There are many issues involved in this discernment process. Although the prior federal policy was not to do immigration enforcement in churches, the current administration may very well change that policy, opening up the possibility of legal action.
Without minimizing those issues, there is one concern that we hear over and over again, both in this particular debate and in the broader context of discussions about the refugee crisis and the current ICE activities. Security, the fear that some of those who are in this country illegally or those seeking refugee status might be dangerous folks, is trotted out as a reason to refuse to offer sanctuary and as justification for not taking in refugees and for deporting massive numbers of people.
From the standpoint of Christian discipleship, security as an excuse for not giving aid to refugees, for massive deportations, or for not giving sanctuary to a family facing deportation is deeply troubling. The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable did not hang back, worried that perhaps the man lying on the road was feigning illness; he saw someone in need and took action. And, not only does the list of Beatitudes not include “blessed are those who maximize their personal safety,” but Jesus was clear from the get go that following the standard he invites us to will risk persecution and danger.
Thus, while I think is perfectly appropriate to vet people entering into the United States and to vet any family/families the parish might take in, to not care for the vulnerable and welcome the stranger out of fear for safety is not an acceptable Christian response.
Simply put, security is not a Christian virtue.