Dallas, Texas, Aug 4, 2015 / 23:04 pm
The recent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment from public figures is nothing new to American history, Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas said in his column on Friday.
"The ghost of Nativism again prowls our land. The vilifiers and the vilified are different, but the script is the same," he said in his July 31 column.
Catholics in particular should remember that "we 'were once aliens residing in the land' - not of Egypt but of America," he said referring to the way Catholic belief was portrayed as subversive to American democracy.
Barred from holding public office and practicing the faith openly, Catholics were treated as second-class citizens who did not deserve the full rights of American citizenship.
However, it wasn't only religion that raised the suspicion of nativist groups such as the Know Nothings and the Ku Klux Klan, he said; racial minorities such as the Chinese, Eastern Europeans, Italians, and Irish were also regarded as a threat to America.
Rather than being treated as equals in America, these religious and racial minorities "were vilified as sub-human, ne'er-do-wells and drunkards incapable of productive citizenship."
Today this same "fear and suspicion" of "the others" is behind what the bishop calls the recent trend of "immigrant bashing."
Bishop Farrell said Catholics in particular should remember the passage from Exodus in which the Israelites are told, "You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt."
Last week Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York challenged GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump over his remarks about immigration, in which he said, "the U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems. And these aren't the best and the finest."
Cardinal Dolan blasted Trump for his comments, saying that this rhetoric is proof that the bigotry of nativism is alive and well in America.
"I take seriously the Bible's teaching that we are to welcome the stranger, one of the most frequently mentioned moral imperatives in both the Old and New Testament," Cardinal Dolan said.
The cardinal then pointed to two attitudes toward immigrants described by various American historians, the first being the nativists.
These people "sadly… (view) the unwashed, ignorant, bothersome brood as criminals and misfits who threaten 'pure America,' and are toxic to everything decent in the United States."
However, the second, "more enlightened and patriotic" approach sees the immigrant as a gift to the nation, realizing that Native Americans are the only citizens whose ancestors were not immigrants.
The second group still recognizes the need for border control, fair regulation and prudent policies, but "we are wise to consider the immigrant as good for our beloved nation," the cardinal said.