New York Times (Editorial)
February 17, 2016
Pope Francis’ trip to Mexico ended on Wednesday in Ciudad Juárez, a city once made hellish by drug violence and still gripped by poverty and crime. He did not seem afraid, and brought with him only smiles and hugs, and words of solace and encouragement.
He visited a prison, greeting inmates one by one, urging them to live as “prophets,” to turn their suffering toward goodness. “Work,” he said, “so that this society which uses people and discards them will not go on claiming victims.”
He prayed at the border for the migrant dead, and condemned the “grave injustices” done to those who are forced by poverty and violence to journey north.
If only that message of decency, of human worth, could have been amplified, in English, to the United States, across the river to Texas, and beyond to Washington.
Beyond them, across the river, was a nation that has frightened itself to the point of panic about foreigners, with help from Republicans running for president.
It’s not just Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz, or the rest who would expel immigrants by the millions and deny safety to refugees fleeing war in Syria. So deep is the Republican fear that a once-feasible campaign for immigration reform now lies damaged beyond hope and recognition. Even Gov. John Kasich, the candidate of restraint and civility, who rejects mass deportation, said in last week’s debate that unauthorized immigrants must never be given a path to citizenship.
“I think he doesn’t understand the problems our country has,” Mr. Trump said of the pope last week, showing a depth of ignorance that is his trademark. “I don’t think he understands the danger of the open border that we have with Mexico.”
Pope Francis understands these problems and dangers, and so do those who went to see him, many of whose loved ones are dead, memorialized with crosses in and around Juárez, or in the desert borderlands. They know those who have left their homes, who have crossed a barren desert to provide for their families, or have done so themselves.
It takes courage to live in Juárez, to face up to dangers there, or to leave it and cross north to new lives. It takes no courage at all to demonize immigrants from the safety of the United States, and to stoke fear, for the sake of votes and power.
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