A tour group from a local Catholic parish was passing through our Catholic Charities Family Immigration Services department when the guide asked me to share with our guests a bit about our work.
Of course. That’s easy. Mostly family based petitions. Some DACA renewals. And over the past two years, we’ve responded to the times by taking on new types of cases, working with Afghans since the U.S. evacuation, and Ukrainians, since the war began. Done. Back to making copies.
But I hadn’t anticipated the questions. Not easy. Not easy at all.
“Aren’t you concerned that you may be aiding criminals in your line of work? What if you’re contributing to Mexican drug cartels?”
Feeling incredibly defensive, I honestly can’t remember how I answered the questions about my potential partnership with drug cartels and hardened criminals. But I’ve watched enough episodes of Ozark to confidently conclude cartels won’t be seeking my legal services any time soon, despite my proximity to the show’s titular location.
As I was replaying this tour group Q&A in my mind, I decided to review yesterday’s readings. As it turns out (and this should come as no surprise to any of us), Scripture can and should inform my response to future questions regarding my work.
The theme of familial love is woven throughout the readings from Malachi and Matthew—each in its own way, inviting us to relate to God as a loving parent, and to relate to others as loving siblings who care for one another.
And just as I was once again replaying that Q&A and reflecting on these readings, I received an email from the USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants campaign. Their message contained the tagline: “We are one family under God.”
Timing is everything.
The questions put to me about immigration weren’t really about crime. The questions were about family.
The endless U.S. immigration debate isn’t about immigrants and whether or not they’ll be perfect community members. It’s about us, the debaters, and how we choose to relate to and treat others—immigrant or not—with hospitality or hostility, with welcome or suspicion, with awe or judgment, with grace or condemnation.
Both the Hebrew scriptures and the Gospels invite us, and oftentimes even challenge us, to treat any given person as we would our own families. And when I think of my family—the quirks, the flaws, the support, the love—I quickly note that we’re not perfect; and still, I try my best to always presume the good.
How can we offer that same kindness beyond our immediate loved ones to immigrants, refugees, people in prison, and, indeed, to all of humanity?
- How might you be called to offer kindness and familial love to those beyond your immediate circles?
Marissa Flores Madden is a Department of Justice Accredited Representative in the Family Immigration Services program at Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri and the creator of the Mercy Moments podcast series (cccnmo.diojeffcity.org/mercy-moments). Before moving from Cleveland to Missouri in 2021, she taught Catholic Social Teaching (CST) to high school seniors and worked in campus ministry leading immersion retreats to Ecuador and the U.S.-Mexico border. Reflecting on these experiences through the lens of CST continues to inspire her work with immigrants today.