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What if the immigrants we reject are Jesus, Mary and Joseph?

 |  NCR Today

Last week, I was in Santa Fe, N.M., and experienced a couple of things that made me reflect on the continuing concern over immigration to this country.

First, I attended the annual Las Posadas performance at the downtown Santa Fe plaza. This is the reenactment of the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem before Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus.

They were seeking posada, or shelter. Unfortunately, every inn they approached turned them away telling them that there was no posada available. Consequently, they had to find shelter in a barn. The play reminded me of our current immigrants, especially from Mexico and Central America, who enter without documents, but, like Mary and Joseph, seek posada in their cases from lack of economic opportunities for their families in their home countries.

However, and regretfully, like the innkeepers, we also deny them posada. Yet the Christmas season should remind us of how Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus also represented migrants and refugees who were rejected like today's immigrants.

The Christmas story should make us refocus. We are all children of God, and Jesus became Mman to save all of us, including immigrants. What if those we turn away today include Mary, Joseph and Jesus?

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The other thing that reminded me of the plight of today's immigrants is a wonderful French/Spanish film titled "The Women on the Sixth Floor" that I saw in Santa Fe. It is a story set in the early 1960s in Paris and involves six Spanish female immigrants who leave their country and their families in order to find work, primarily domestic work, in France.

But like today's Latino immigrants, even though they find jobs, they are heavily exploited and treated with disdain and prejudice. At the same time, these are proud women who stand up for themselves, even against their employers, and who bond together as a community.

This film puts a human face to immigrants and reminds us of the humanity of people who, through no fault of their own, must leave their homes and families to provide for their loved ones. We forget this humanity when we rail against "illegal aliens" and treat them as faceless "criminals" in recent anti-immigrant legislation in states like Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and others.

Yet these people of God are not inanimate statistics; they are human beings. To me, as I tell my students, immigration, especially undocumented immigration, is not just an economic or legal issue; it is a moral issue. These are our fellow human beings in need, and we need to respond to them in a human way. As Christians and as Catholics, no human should be alien to us. We should always ask ourselves, "What if my mother or father or some other family member was undocumented?" Would we take such a legalistic and hostile view of these immigrants? Of course we wouldn't, and this should also be our moral response to the plight of other immigrants.

Let's reflect on this during Christmas with the hope that we can come to a moral and Jesus-like approach to the issue of immigration.

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