As the Supreme Court was preparing to hear legal arguments challenging the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) programs that would either uphold or negate the president’s administrative action to shield some 4 million immigrants from deportation, a more spiritual drama was playing out in Greece, where Pope Francis visited with refugees on the island of Lesbos.
The pope visited the Moria detention facility, where more than 3000 men, women, and children are being held in overcrowded conditions. As he boarded his flight back to the Vatican, with him were three Muslim families, comprising 12 Syrians chosen by lottery to act as a symbol for the Pope’s message calling on Europe to welcome the migrants. Francis said he understood that some governments and people were afraid, but that fear did not lift from them a “responsibility of welcome.”
“We hope that the world will heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need, and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity,” Francis told the migrants.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a self-described atheist, called the visit “historic,” coming when “some of our partners—even in the name of Christian Europe—were erecting walls and fences to prevent defenseless people from seeking a better life.”
In an important symbol of reconciliation within the Christian faith, the pope was accompanied by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, as well as by Greek Archbishop Ieronymos II. Ieronymos denounced government policies that “have brought these people to this impasse,” and Bartholomew promised to “do everything to open the eyes and hearts of the world,” adding, “The world will be judged by the way it has treated you.”
The three leaders threw laurel wreaths into the sea to honor those who tried to cross but did not make it to shore.
Francis urged the world to resist the temptation to build walls. He also thanked Lesbos residents and people across Greece for keeping “open their hearts and doors.”
“Many ordinary men and women have made available the little they have and shared it with those who lost everything. God will repay this generosity,” he said.
Thomas J. Reese, senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter, said, “He is telling Europe that it is denying its Christian roots when it turns its back on those in need. He is telling Europe that Jesus would not close the doors to those fleeing war and persecution.”
Meanwhile, back in the United States, the GOP-led House of Representatives filed an amicus brief that would allow GOP lawmakers 15 of the 90 minutes provided for arguments in front of the court. President Obama’s administrative order would grant work permits to more than 4 million immigrants in the United States. A federal injunction has held up implementation of the programs until legal questions raised by 26 states are heard. A 4-4 split would leave in place a lower court ruling that blocked it.
The hearing comes at a moment when both top Republican contenders are proposing to deport the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally.—Ruth McCambridge