In the midst of a US primary season where immigration has taken center-stage, Pope Francis is widely-expected to address the issue when he again visits the Americas and holds Mass in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico next month.
“Migration is a complicated situation and he’s not going to ignore the demands of national sovereignty … (but) he’s calling for a more open and generous approach,” said Tom Quigley, a policy adviser for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In Ciudad Juarez, Pope Francis will celebrate mass in an open area and then proceed to the nearby Rio Grande to greet people “on the other side in a powerful show of solidarity with his Latin American compatriots.”
The Pontiff had also stated his wish to cross the US/Mexico border, but this was scrapped due to “logistical reasons.” But, this Pope has become the Pope of the unexpected, and anything could be possible.
The Pope celebrated America’s immigrants and Latinos from the start during his US tour last year, calling himself “the son of immigrants” in the very first sentence of his opening remarks at the White House.
In Philadelphia, the Pope asked immigrants to “not be discouraged” by challenges and to “never be ashamed” of their traditions, and in New York City visited with refugees and celebrated Mass using a chair built by three immigrant day laborers.
But it was perhaps his interaction with a young girl named Sofi Cruz that made the biggest headlines, embracing the five-year-old daughter of Mexican immigrants when she broke through the security barrier to hand him a letter asking him to fight for DAPA and her parents.
As the Pope again visits our region of the world, advocates hope his pro-immigrant message again resonates.
“[Immigrants] are people and we need to treat them that way,” said [Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley] Sister Norma Pimentel, whose work Francis has praised and who was invited to meet him in New York last year. “They need our help, and so we welcome them to restore their dignity.”
Pimentel’s center at the Sacred Heart church in McAllen receives about 100 migrants a day who have been detained, processed and released by the Border Patrol. Each adult gets an electronic monitoring anklet to ensure they make court appearances.
On a recent morning, Erica Johana Garcia was breakfasting with her two children at the center before catching a bus for the final leg of their journey to Los Angeles. They left Guatemala after thugs told her 15-year-old son they would rape his 8-year-old sister if he didn’t join their gang.
Fingering her ankle bracelet, Garcia, 34, vowed to fight to be able to stay.
“I can’t go back because I risk my children,” she said, “especially my son.”