For Archbishop Chaput, Holy Family Provides Lesson on Immigration

‘We need to treat the undocumented among us with the mercy and justice we expect for ourselves,’ he said in a homily on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia (photo: 2012 CNA/Matthew Rarey)

PHILADELPHIA — Faithful Catholics “need to remember that the Holy Family, too, was once a family of immigrants and refugees,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

He stressed: “We need to treat the undocumented among us with the mercy and justice we expect for ourselves.”

Archbishop Chaput’s Dec. 12 statement connected the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt to the stories of many immigrants today.

“Mary — our mother; the mother of the Church — had an intimate understanding of suffering, flight, homelessness and uncertainty,” he said.

The archbishop said that Mary’s honorific titles are “richly deserved” but “can sometimes obscure the human reality of Mary’s life.”

She was “a young woman of the rough Galilean hills, pregnant, with a seemingly implausible story before her marriage to Joseph, who gave birth to her child in the cold in a stable far from home and, then, hunted by Herod, was forced to flee to Egypt.”

“At Guadalupe, Mary appeared not to the rich or powerful or even to the local bishop, but to the poor peasant Juan Diego,” the archbishop continued. “Her tenderness to the poor is something we need to remember this Advent, because our Christian faith is more than a set of ideas or beautiful words. It’s meant to be lived. It’s meant to transform our thinking and our actions.”

While acknowledging that “the current White House has taken actions that a great many faithful Catholics regard as damaging,” Archbishop Chaput defended President Barack Obama’s decision to defer deportation for many undocumented immigrants and their families, saying it was “the right thing” to do.

On Nov. 20, Obama issued an executive order staying the deportation of certain undocumented immigrant parents for up to three years and allowing them to work legally.

About 4 million people are eligible under the order’s requirements: five years of U.S. residency, having children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, passing a criminal background check and agreeing to pay taxes.

The order also extended some benefits of temporary residence to more children of undocumented immigrants. The president said he would increase resources for border security and deport undocumented immigrants who had recently crossed the border.

“This action prevents the breakup of families with mixed immigration status,” Archbishop Chaput said of the executive order. “It also protects individuals who were brought to the United States as children and have grown up knowing only American life and nothing of their parents’ native land.”

The archbishop said that the U.S. bishops have advocated a “just and sensible” immigration-policy reform for more than 10 years. He said both major U.S. political parties bear “a generous portion of the blame” for the failure to secure a just immigration policy.

“Whatever the timing and motives of the current executive action might mean, deferring deportations serves the survival and human dignity of the families involved,” he said. “And it may, finally, force the White House and Congress to cooperate fruitfully.”