Who are migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants?
Migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants: What's the difference?
Which of the four were Mary and Joseph?
Matthew: 2:12-14 provides important details about the reasons Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt: An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary and the newborn infant Jesus out of Judea and into Egypt in order to escape the murderous clutches of Herod.
Today, people around the world make the same difficult decision to leave their countries in search of safety and better lives. There are 68.5 million men, women and children escaping war, persecution and political turbulence. These are refugees and asylum seekers.
This isn't about immigration policy, the economic benefits of immigration or whether immigration is a drain on America. The story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus tells us about why people are forced to flee.
In the Dec. 28 issue of America Magazine, James Martin, SJ said: "With refugees and migrants in the news, some commentators have sought to draw parallels between their plight and that of the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary and Joseph. How accurate are these comparisons? Were Jesus, Mary and Joseph what we would consider today 'refugees'? The answer is, 'Yes.'"
There's been confusion and debate over the use of these terms to describe the plight of those on the move. What are the differences between a refugee, asylum seeker, immigrant and migrant.
We define a refugee as someone who has been forced to flee his or her home because of war, violence or persecution, often without warning. Mary, Joseph and Jesus were forced to flee, to escape the murderous clutches of Herod.
They were refugees.
Asylum seekers seek international protection from dangers in their home countries, but they may not have legal refugee status. They cross a border to apply in the destination country.
Immigrants chose to come for various reasons, such as to live in freedom, to practice their religion freely, to escape poverty or oppression, and to make better lives for themselves and their children. Immigrants come to live permanently in a country.
Migrants move from place to place for jobs, such as seasonal work, or education. They were not forced to leave.
Last year, the Franciscan Federation approved the Justice Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Resolution for 2019 - 2020 "Welcoming The Refugees, Immigrants, Asylum Seekers."
The resolution recognizes that refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers are being turned away from U.S. borders and held in detention centers. It holds national leaders "accountable for the reprehensible crime of separating children from their parents and placing them in detention." Franciscans are called to support neighbors in their weakness as they would want to be supported.
The resolution—at franfed.org/franciscan-federation-jpic-resolution-for-2019-2020-welcoming-the-refugees-immigrants-asylum-seekers—urges people to demand the Department of Homeland Security and government leaders reunite children with their families. It urges people to write letters to the editor, to engage in dialogue with people of different opinions and to correct root causes of forced migration. It also invites people to work for comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S.
Pat Millen, OSF
Franciscan Federation - Justice Peace and the Integrity of Creation Committee
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, January, 2020