By: Thérèse Bermpohl
Bring up immigration in a room full of people and it’s like tossing a match onto a stack of dry hay. Emotions flare and opinions collide. As I write this, I know that there are many sides to each story, huge obstacles to bring about solutions and many political and economic realities at stake. But I cannot see past the immediate need of innocent children whose very lives are threatened as they fall victim to the harrowing experience of being brought into our country.
The situation in the United States is dire and there is certainly enough blame to go around, from the president to Congress. Yet while the powers that be haggle over ways to tackle this enormous problem, the reality looms. There are some 10 to 13 million undocumented immigrants already living among us. According to the Migration and Refugee Services of the USCCB, in 2014 the U.S. will experience up to 90,000 unaccompanied children fleeing to her from all parts of Central America.1
I cannot help but ask what hellish scenario would have to exist for someone to send his or her child, alone, on a dangerous journey to a foreign country? War? Famine? Fear of torture? Most of the children at the border are coming from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Those countries have the first, fourth and fifth highest murder rates (respectively) in the world. Coupled with poverty, corrupt governments and drug cartels, we are no longer talking about a better quality of life. We are talking about survival.
Every day, I pass by a day-laborer site in Arlington. I can feel the discomfort in the pit of my stomach as I stare at the hundreds of Hispanic men begging for work. Not a handout, but work! In his encyclical “On Human Work” Pope John Paul II wrote: “Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and because of his own humanity, which requires work in order to be maintained and developed. Man must work out of regard for others, especially his own family” (Laborem Exercens, 16). I try to imagine a situation where sin, division, and hatred would have forced my own father to stand on a street corner imploring foreigners to hire him so that he could put food on the table for his family.
There is no escaping the fact that we have an immigration system in urgent need of an overhaul. We also have urgent and very legitimate border security needs. But in the meantime, what are we to do with the millions of human beings in our midst?
Arguably, the best response can be found in Matthew 25: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me…”
 USCCB, Unaccompanied Migrant Children Resource Kit, http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/unaccompanied-migrant-children-resource-kit.cfm.