Pope Francis is set to use his first papal visit to the U.S.in part put a spotlight on the plight of immigrants. Pope Francis’s natural connection with immigrants in the United States goes beyond the fact that he is the first Latin American pontiff. Francis is the son of an immigrant, with his father having abandoned Italy to escape Mussolini’s fascist regime six years prior to Pope Francis’s birth in Argentina.
The Catholic News Service reports the Pope intends to enter the U.S. not as a dignitary but “as a migrant” and that immigration will be one of the most important themes of his visit. During his time in the U.S., Pope Francis is expected to deliver the majority of his speeches in Spanish. In a gesture meant to honor immigrant labor, he will use a simple chair constructed by immigrant day laborers for his mass at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In addition to these more subtle gestures and symbols, Pope Francis will reportedly address immigration reform and the treatment of migrants and refugees explicitly in his remarks to Congress.
Pope Francis’s advocacy for and openness towards immigrants are shared amongst American Catholics and other Americans of faith as well. A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Group showed that majorities Americans of every Christian sect favored allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States if they met certain requirements. The pope’s attention to this issue should only help in pushing policy makers towards the realization that immigration policy need not be a partisan issue. Rather, it is a policy problem that requires people from different viewpoints to find enough common ground to find a solution which affirms the rule of law, modernizes the current system, and acknowledges that those in the country without status and who are not a threat to public safety must be legalized and brought out of the shadows.
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