Perla Luna is a Hackworth Fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. She is editor-in-chief of the Santa Clara University student newspaper. Views are her own.
Recently, our nation was divided over a caravan of Central American immigrants that made its way through Mexico. The migrants were tear-gassed as they waited at the U.S-Mexico border—unfortunately, a corralling method with precedents in the Obama, Carter, Reagan, and Bush administrations.
Some expressed shock at the images of families and young children fleeing from the gas, while others turned a blind eye toward it because they saw these immigrants as “hostile” or somehow dangerous to the country. But how do we get to this extreme where communication is no longer an option?
Fear and hate begin with the criminalizing of human bodies. We become unable to separate the issue—immigration—from the very real people who place themselves in danger in hopes of a better life. They know they will never be millionaires or even live a comfortable life, but the chance of getting by just a little bit easier is enough for them. This is twice as true when the future of their kids is involved.
In all the rhetoric, we forget about the people. Maybe it’s not fair to let everyone in, but it’s also not fair to shut everyone out. Regardless of where the answer lies, we cannot erase the experiences and hardships of these immigrants. We cannot pretend we do not see their suffering, and we cannot politicize them for our convenience. It is from a point of humanity that we must approach controversial issues like immigration.
In January 2018, in celebration of the 51st World Day of Peace, Pope Francis published a message titled Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace that advocates for “four mileposts for action:”
- Welcoming: The need to expand legal pathways for welcoming the displaced rather
than pushing them back to persecution and violence.
- Protecting: The need to defend the dignity and security of asylum seekers.
- Promoting: The need to support normal human development of migrants and
- Integrating: The need for helping refugees and migrants to participate in community
Guiding mileposts such as the ones Pope Francis offers are some of what I keep in mind when I tackle difficult subjects as a student journalist. It’s easy to get carried away and only see in terms of one extreme or another, but these mileposts remind us to strive for understanding before judgment. As Pope Francis wrote for the Catholic Church’s celebration of the 51st World Day of Peace, “In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.”