The Pope on Immigration: The Real Story

Some conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, have latched on to the supposed story that Pope Francis has equated rejecting immigrants with murder.

That's not what the pope said.

As with most supposedly bothersome statements from the pope, the reality is very different from the reporting.

Rush and other conservatives got confused because the article blared that "Pope Francis brands rejection of migrants 'an act of war.'"  You need to read the article, and the article it references, very closely to find the caveats.

To find the truth, meanwhile, you need to go to what the pope actually said.  There does not appear to be an official English translation of the pope's speech to the Eucharistic Youth Movement, but here is a translated version of the Italian article on the Vatican website.

We think of those brothers our Rohingja: have been driven from one country and another and another, and go to sea... When they arrive at a port or on a beach, they give them a little 'of water or a little' to eat and drive them away to the sea. This is an unresolved conflict, and this is war, this is violence, it's called murder. It's true: if I have a conflict with you and I kill you, the conflict is ended. But this is not the way. If many identities – whether cultural, religious – are living together in a country, there will be conflicts, but only with respect for the identity of the other. And with that than to resolve the conflict. Tensions – with family, friends – I have said that dialogue is needed to resolve them; the real social conflicts, including cultural, are resolved through dialogue, but first with respect for the identity of the other person. In the Middle East we are seeing that a lot of people is not respected: religious minorities, Christians, but not only, are not respected: they are often killed, persecuted. Why? Why not respect their identity.

The word "murder" is found only in the above quote in this speech. The term "immigration" never appears.

Equating the rejection of all immigrants by any country with murder is something the authors of the article made up.

The reality is that the pope has discussed in the past the need to help people who are fleeing for their lives from wars, as in Libya, and in this case, he's addressing the case of people who can find no place that will accept them, such as the Rohingya.

Few conservatives would argue that we shouldn't have provided at least temporary refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, so the pope's call is hardly startling.  Similarly, who would argue that Turkey should not provide at least temporary shelter to Christians fleeing ISIS?

Essentially, the pope is saying that we can't turn our backs on people fleeing for their lives due to wars and oppression.  It's doubtful that any conservative would reject that, especially since the pope did not say that in those cases, countries have to offer permanent shelter – after all, if the situation stabilizes in Libya, there will be no reason not to send those refugees back.

In the case of the Rohingya, the problem is that no place will let them live in peace, including Burma, where they've lived for a very long time.  Few if any conservatives would argue that it's a morally upright thing to tell a large group of people they have to live in ghettos or wander homeless, rejected by all countries.

But even then, keep in mind that the pope did not say that every country has an obligation to take in the Rohingya – only that some place must.  Clearly the pope did not discuss the details of the situation, but that also means he didn't say that Burma is not the country that needs to figure out how to respect both its own identity and treat the Rohingya humanely.  To say that the pope is demanding that every country take any displaced person is going far beyond what the pope said.

Nothing the pope said applies to Mexicans who come to the U.S. illegally in order to live off welfare or even to honestly work for a living.  Those illegals can go home without fear of death – and when that's not the case (say, a police officer targeted by the cartels), there are different policies in place when a true threat to one’s life can be established – or fear that Mexico will reject someone.

Hence, the pope is not equating immigration laws with murder, as some articles have claimed.

It's interesting how some normally media-savvy conservatives who know that the MSM distorts everything to conform to its agenda fall for the continual misrepresentations of what the pope says that unfailingly put the pope in lockstep with liberals.

The reality is that nothing the MSM says about the pope can be trusted.  Always go to the original text to find out just what Pope Francis is actually saying.

You can read more of Tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious, and feel free to follow him on Twitter.