Prudence is weighing the possible, determining how to achieve the most good and avoiding unnecessary evil. This is the task before the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers President Barack Obama’s executive action to provide temporary relief for some immigrant youths and parents by deferring deportations.
It is not an amnesty program, nor does it fix the broken immigration system. Any significant reform will have to wait for a more reasoned conversation in Congress. In the meantime, what the administration is proposing gives a modicum of security to many aspiring Americans living in ambiguity and allows federal and local law enforcement to effectively allocate resources to protect our neighborhoods, not divide them.
When speaking last September to a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis held up the ancient biblical figure of Moses, the “patriarch and lawgiver.” The Lord gave the law through Moses as a sign and a force for unity. The law was also intended to lead Moses’ people to an understanding of their innate human dignity in the eyes of the creator.
The Supreme Court justices who were present for this message will do well to keep these principles in mind as they deliberate Texas v. United States. Ultimately, laws must serve people and the common good. While we wait for Congress to assume this duty with regards to comprehensive and humane immigration reform, the court can call on the wisdom of Moses to bring a measure of unity and security to immigrant families as well as the nation.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis will again look out on the United States. This time, he will do so from the tumultuous Mexican metropolis of Ciudad Juarez. From there he and others will gaze across to the neighboring city of El Paso, Texas, separated by the border.
Religious celebrations will be held on both sides of the Rio Grande due to harsh political realities that still keep neighbors apart. Technology will help bridge that divide. The two venues will become virtually one. It is most likely, though, that bellows of buoyant hope will echo over both sides of that seemingly insurmountable barrier. It will be a common voice of hope. May the minds and hearts of the justices be tuned to that message.
Jaime Soto is bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.