First Reading: Deuteronomy 10:12-22
Nativism is nothing new in America. It is alive and asserting itself with renewed energy. The dictionary defines nativism as “the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.” Even though we are all descendants of immigrants, nativist, anti-immigrant sentiment has a long history in the United States. Early naturalization laws, for instance, only allowed white Europeans the privilege of naturalization. The powerful Know-Nothing party of the mid 19th century strongly objected to the entrance of German and Irish immigrants and in 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibiting Chinese immigration to our country. Nativism is bigotry born of a WASP mentality which is committed to keeping America white and Protestant. It is a super race mentality, and it is frightening.
Peoples of all times have been tribal and racist. In today’s reading from Deuteronomy, God says to His people, “For the Lord, your God, is the God of gods…who has no favorites, accepts no bribes; who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him. So you, too, must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourself in the land of Egypt.” If we go back far enough, we are all aliens.
A country has a right to define and secure its borders and pass laws regulating immigration. However, these laws must reflect mercy and compassion for those seeking entrance especially those fleeing from violence, poverty and persecution. Phrases from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, New Colossus, which were put on a plaque and mounted inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, ought to be as relevant today as when they were mounted: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Brother Andre Mathieu, C.P.