Perspective on Immigration from Scripture and Tradition

Article 3 in the series

Last week, we glanced at the history of immigration in our country, and this week we’ll look at what scripture and our tradition say about the issue. Please keep all immigrants and refugees in your prayers and contact Andrew Musgrave at or 414-271-6577 with any questions.

As previously mentioned, the issue of immigration is foundational in our scriptures. Abraham went to Canaan (Gen 12), Jacob went to Egypt (Gen 46), Moses leaves Egypt (Ex 14) and – skipping ahead quite a bit – Jesus and his family flee back to Egypt (Mt 2), and Jesus lived “with nowhere to lay his head…” (Mt 8:20). All of these stories were people going to a better place searching for a better life or people fleeing a dangerous situation.

Over the last 125+ years, our Popes have spoken out directly about migration and refugees.
– in 1891, Rerum Novarum talks about the value of work and the right of people to move to where they can find life- and family-sustaining work.
– in 1952, Exsul Familia affirmed the teaching of RN
– in 1963, Pacem in Terris states that “Every human being has the right to the freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of their country; and, when there are just reasons for it, the right to emigrate and take up residence elsewhere.”
– in 1985, St. Pope John Paul II reiterated this point: “Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own country. When there are just reasons in favor of it, he must be permitted to migrate to other countries and to take up residence there.”
– in 2003, the US Catholic Bishops said that – pertaining to the issue of accommodating immigrants – strong countries like the United States have a higher obligation to serve the universal common good.