Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento, California, Chairman of the Board of Directors at CLINIC, offers the following reflection for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
On Sunday, September 25, we celebrate World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This day is an opportunity for the global Church and all people of good will to step back and examine our response to the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.”
For those of you who are migrants or refugees, it is a day to remember: God loves you. You are not alone or abandoned, no matter your circumstances. The Church recognizes, honors and values you. We recognize the presence of the humble Jesus in you. We hear his voice urging us to stand by you.
The theme Pope Francis has chosen for this day of prayer, reflection and celebration is “building the future together with migrants and refugees.” Pope Francis invites us to recognize that we are called to work together to build a better future drawing ever closer to the hopeful vision of God’s Kingdom of justice and peace. The sure and certain hope of God’s kingdom helps us to open the door to the migrants and refugees in our midst — not excluding them, or even merely working on their behalf, but journeying together with them. “There can be no tomorrow without this inclusion,” Pope Francis says.
In his message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis reminds us of the invaluable contributions migrants and refugees make in our societies — enriching our culture, faith communities, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods, with their talents and capacities.
In the United States, we are more aware than ever of the contributions immigrants bring to our society. In the past years of the pandemic, immigrant workers, regardless of immigration status, have performed essential services in all industries — healthcare, education, agriculture, etc. This cannot be overlooked: Immigrants are talented, hard-working members of our communities. They are our neighbors and friends. Giving them the legal recognition and respect they deserve is long overdue.
In particular, let us keep in mind Dreamers and DACA recipients, those who lack permanent legal pathways to remain in this country, the only home they have ever known. Nearly 700,000 young people are reliant on DACA to remain in the U.S., and around 1.5 million are potentially eligible. Among DACA recipients, 96% are either in school or working in U.S. industries. These young people are our neighbors, friends, and family members. They are already helping us build a brighter future in the U.S. They should be allowed to continue building the future with us by giving them lasting legal protection.
Many bring up the sheer volume of people requesting asylum or seeking legal immigration status and ask, how can it be done? To this we say: Ours is a God of abundance. In the Gospel according to Luke (Lk. 9.10-17), the disciples of Jesus hesitated when Jesus told them to feed the hungry multitude with what seemed a meager number of loaves and fish. The Lord was not deterred. He began to serve with what he had. His charity produced an abundance the disciples could not foresee. The same Lord urges us today. Logistical challenges are real; we do not overlook them. Welcoming immigrants requires sacrifices of time, attention and resources. However, when we decide to do the right thing, to take up the call of hospitality and justice, time and time again a door is opened, resources follow, people open their generous hearts to help.
On this day set aside by the Church to honor our migrant brothers and sisters, let us examine our hearts and our practices. Let us recommit to the holy work of hospitality, welcome, integration and building the future together.