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Commentary: Remember what Lady Liberty says

  • Story Highlights
  • Pedro A. Moreno García: Lessening welcome to immigrants weakens U.S. values
  • Moreno: U.S. must not close doors, build walls and become isolationist
  • Moreno says U.S. at its worst when displaying xenophobia, racism or hate
  • He says commandment "to love one another" does not have exemption clause
By Pedro A. Moreno García
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Pedro A. Moreno García is the associate director of Hispanic Catechesis Diocese of Austin, Texas.

Pedro A. Moreno García says he believes each immigrant welcomed is an opportunity for America's growth.

Pedro A. Moreno García says he believes each immigrant welcomed is an opportunity for America's growth.

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- A key element for the continued success of Latinos in America is the degree to which they are welcomed into our society. This country of immigrants is famous for welcoming others, especially those in most need.

Any weakening of our national ability to welcome others would be a tragic deterioration of one of our nation's central values. We are at our collective best when we are deeply engaged in echoing the words of Emma Lazarus' epic poem, "The New Colossus" -- "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. ..."

We are at our collective worst when we are sipping from the cup of xenophobia, racism, nationalism, misandry, misogyny, homophobia or just generic hate.

Welcoming is not always easy, but it enriches our nation beyond our wildest dreams. Each immigrant is a beautiful gift from the God in whom this nation places its trust.

Each welcoming of a new person is an opportunity for the continued growth and progress of this country.

Welcoming others, treating fellow human beings with hospitality, sets the stage for relationships to grow and develop.

Welcoming others opens the door for everyone, both the one welcoming and those who are welcomed, to share the blessings and gifts that they both have.

The best each person has to offer comes out more easily when hospitality is the common ground on which we walk. Each Latino can offer his or her best when hospitality is translated into "Mi casa es tu casa."

Sadly, the opposite is also true. An absence of welcoming, and even outright rejection or persecution, not only sends many into the shadows of society but also sends into hiding their talents and gifts, thus impoverishing us all. An impoverishment of society affects every cell of that society, beginning with the family and ending with the nation itself.

Again, to welcome the stranger is not easy. Sometimes it can be very uncomfortable or even painful. Being welcoming and hospitable to others can lead us to moan and complain, but the Scriptures warn us against this.

In 1 Peter 4:9, New International Version, the Scriptures invite us to "[o]ffer hospitality to one another without grumbling."

At times, our country can seem less welcoming than it was in the past. But we must continue our long history of hospitality despite the difficulties, which were also there in the past.

We must also be vigilant that, as a nation, we do not fall into the temptations to close our doors, build new walls or have more armed guards standing by.

Welcoming others must be done with prudence, but prudence cannot drown out compassion and generosity, and excessive prudence can become isolationism.

As does the nation, many communities struggle with this temptation to isolationism. Families and even faith communities struggle with it.

In my experience, in the last couple of years, various brothers and sisters from within the Roman Catholic Church have questioned, with not so charitable words, why the church would even minister to someone who is undocumented.

Many do not understand that the commandment -- to love one another -- does not have an exemption clause.

To quote Scripture again: "We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth." (3 John 1:8, New International Version)

In the diocese of Austin, Texas, the church strives to live out the final gospel-inspired verses of Lazarus' poem, a work that can be found on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty exhibit hall.

I hope and pray that these words continue to reflect our national sentiment for many years to come.

"Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

It is the welcome and the hospitality that motivates Latinos in America to say ... "We are truly una nación under Dios."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Pedro A. Moreno García.

All About Statue of LibertyThe Roman Catholic ChurchAustin (Texas)

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