Emigration and Global Economic Inequality

by Dorothy Fuchs, SND on February 11, 2014

in Blogs

Sr. Dorothy Fuchs, SND,  was a high school teacher for twenty-nine years.  When teaching World Culture, religion and U.S. History  Sr. Dorothy tried to give her students the sense of the inherent dignity of people of all cultures, the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate events in history, and the realization of the  gifts of our Catholic faith, a faith that teaches that all people are children of God.  For fourteen years Sister Dorothy was a pastoral minister. For twelve if those years Sister served on the staff of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, where as staff liaison to the Social Concerns Committee she worked with the committee to promote aware of current social justice issues.

In 1923 my father emigrated from Germany.  About ten years ago I had the opportunity to go to Ellis Island and find the ship manifest which brought my father to the United States. One of the questions on the manifest was “Do you have a job?”  Every passenger indicated no.  The guide at Ellis Island told us if the passenger had indicated they had a job they would not be allowed into the country.   Fear of losing jobs to immigrants is not a new feeling.  Yet my father, like so many other emigrants, past and present, became a productive member of U.S. society.   My father left post World War I Germany for the same reason most emigrants leave the country of their origin:  economic opportunity.  Inflation and unemployment were rampant in Germany.

Recently I read an article in National Geographic about the many immigrants to places like Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.  Each year these immigrants, torn apart from their families, send billions of dollars to their country of origin to give their families what they could not possibly afford if they had stayed in their home country.   Very often they do not see their families for years.  They want to provide a better education for their children, decent housing, and medical benefits, but this is not possible if they remain in their home country.   The issue of emigration and poverty has not been lost on our current Holy Father.  Pope Francis has spoken on numerous occasions about wealth and income inequality and respect for immigrants.  In September, 2013 Pope Francis said, “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity…. They are children, men and women who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing, having, but above all for being more….. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

How can we be part of creating this culture of encounter?   As we challenge the policies which permit excess profits for corporations, will we embrace a way of living less dependent on things, so that we are not contributors to a society which increasingly demands more and better products, at the expense of those who create the products?  Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who leave the familiar surroundings of their homeland.   Let our voice be heard for immigration policies in our own nation that permit immigrants who contribute to the building up of our economy to be beneficiaries of what they worked to produce.

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Lisa Novak February 11, 2014 at 11:25 am

Well stated, Dorothy. How we hope and pray that our legislators all see the immigrant as a person who simply wants a chance to pursue “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Thank you!

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