By Joe Guzzardi
September 28, 2015
Pope Francis has completed his whirlwind trip where his overriding theme was that the United States should be more generous toward immigrants. The pope called for an end to “immigrant-hate mongering” and the “politics of ignorance.” In the pope’s address to Congress, he referenced the Golden Rule when he urged the U.S. to be more accepting of Central American migrants. The Pope charged that the Central Americans have been forced to come north, do so at great personal risk, but then upon arrival are met with “racist and xenophobic attitudes.”
Many have a different opinion about how the 2014 Central American border surge unfolded. The majority of migrants were reunited with their illegal alien families, allowed to stay, and enrolled in local school districts—hardly the definition of xenophobic treatment.
Judging by his speeches, Pope Francis knows little about U.S. immigration. For Americans who know that U.S. immigration policy is the world’s most generous, the Pope’s comments were disappointing, but predictably so.
The U. S. accepts more immigrants than all countries combined, has a total 42.1 million foreign-born legal and illegal immigrants, 13. 3 percent of the nation’s total population, and has a higher foreign-born population percentage than the world’s largest countries. The U.S. foreign-born population increased by 4.1 million from the second quarter of 2011 to the second quarter of 2015—1.7 million in just the last year. In the U.S., one out of every seven residents is foreign-born. By comparison, in Mexico, the biggest immigrant-sending country, a mere 0.9 percent is foreign-born.
Ironically, the Vatican City State, a sovereign, independent territory, has the world’s most restrictive immigration laws. A few years ago, John Swenson, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Catholic Conference, said that while there should always be an absolute right to migrate, since Pope John XXIII the church has also taught that “the primary duty of the state is to provide for the common good. One way of doing that is to protect its borders.” Swanson acknowledged that too many immigrants “concentrated in too limited an area, can cause real economic hardships.”
Francis has embraced Pope John XXIII’s “right to migrate” philosophy, but not the common good approach unless Vatican City might be the migrants’ final destination.
Although the Vatican hosts millions of visitors annually, only a tiny number who must meet rigorous criteria are eventually admitted as residents or citizens. In 2012, Dante Figueroa, Law Library of Congress Senior Analyst, studied the Vatican City State and found that of its 800 residents, only 450 have Vatican citizenship.
Obtaining Vatican citizenship is nearly impossible. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed a commission to revise citizenship standards. The commission determined that citizenship can be acquired by law or by administrative decision. Citizenship is granted to only three classes of persons: (a) the Cardinals resident in the Vatican City State or in Rome; (b) the Holy See’s diplomats; and (c) the persons who reside in Vatican City State because of their official positions including the Swiss Guard who have taken an oath of loyalty to protect the pope.
The Vatican’s standards for residency and citizenship are much more rigid than those the Pope advocated for the U.S during his visit. Moreover, in the Pope’s home country of Argentina, only one out of every 22 residents among its 41.5 million population is foreign-born, less than one percent of worldwide migrants. Doing the math differently, the U.S. has taken 2,328 percent or 24 times more migrants than Argentina.
The U.S. deserves credit, not scorn, for what it’s done and continues to do for those who want to come to America.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]