If Pope Francis ever had a message for Washington, it was to look more closely at how the American people, and the politicians who lead them, react to immigrants.
“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” the pope said before a joint meeting of Congress Thursday.
After years of political divide over how to deal with the country’s southern border, a rush of young migrants and now a Syrian refugee crisis, the pope urged Washington to take a new and more collaborative approach to tackling migration. Advocates, however, fear the pontiff’s message will do little to ease nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment on the presidential campaign trail and in the halls of Congress.
“I don’t want to be pessimistic,” said Frank Sharry, the founder and executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration reform group based in D.C. “But, the problem is that there is a war for the Republican soul on immigration between what is politely called the ‘white identity wing’ of the party and the wing that wants to modernize. Unfortunately, the hardliners are winning right now.”