An Army of Invisible People Who Can Be Blackmailed


A political attitude of rejecting immigrants is growing, whereas the economies still need to hire them.  It is obvious to everyone that we are before the tendency of many countries to entrench themselves, to close in on themselves, to ensure the level of well-being attained within their walls, but without paying sufficient attention to the needs of those outside the walls with a grave omission of the principle of solidarity.

In recent times, the so-called “armored communities” have been growing, and we may be about to witness the birth of “armored continents”, with Europe and North America in the front line.  We will probably see new iron curtains fall soon, with tightened border controls and new coastal defense measures.  Some venture to say that the reinforcement of the borders does not serve only or in first place to stop the migratory movements — which in fact continue — but to define the migrants that cross them as illegal, thereby giving them an identity that puts them in a position of inferiority and a lack of rights: an army of invisible people who can be blackmailed and exploited[3


The sense of insecurity which the European citizens feel today is caused, on the one hand, by the inevitable generational changes and, on the other, by an economic globalization without rules.  Therefore, shifting the blame for the instability on the migrants – rather than facing realistically the problems that have roots elsewhere – appears to help create in public opinion the image of a State that is vigilant and concerned about its citizens’ security, and this fuels the fear of others and of migrants in particular.

We have to reaffirm, in fact, that the diversity brought by the migrations is not a given: there are different things, individuals and cultures.  Often, throughout history, these differences have been used to dominate or discriminate and their value was rarely enhanced.  Instead, to conceive of diversity as a value means to develop a pluralistic view of reality where recognition, respect and promotion of diversity is possible and hopeful.

Today’s migrations are characterized by a great complexity of factors.  It should not be forgotten that the migrants themselves do not play a passive role; on the contrary, they are the immediate protagonists both from the standpoint of protecting their fundamental human rights and observing their duties.  They are driven by grave needs to leave or, in some cases, to flee from their countries; but they also make choices and move in order to fulfill individual or family projects to improve their living conditions, often with courage and determination.  These are choices that all of us would make if we were in the same situations.


Punitive measures are not enough.  Often they do not even discourage new departures but only make them more dangerous or costly.  The political exploitation of migrations without really taking the necessary precautions is even more damaging.  This can unleash xenophobic resentment in the local people and, as a result, violent reactions that may even find justification in the words of one politician or another, such as, “You have to be mean with the illegal immigrants”.  Instead, the question should be asked: How can the supply and demand for labor be met without making the foreign workers always go through the door of illegality

And then: How much is invested in integration to build a society – which is already multiethnic – in which cohesion, reciprocal respect and dialogue will not be lacking?  What is done for schools, which are confronted more and more with the insertion of boys and girls of foreign origin, and for the poorer neighborhoods where autochthones and immigrants live together amidst various social hardships?  Can cooperation with the migrants’ countries of departure and transit continue to consist solely of financing detention centers (or “concentration camps”) on their territory?

“Emigration, in almost every case, is not a pleasure but a necessity…by preventing it a sacred human right is violated, by abandoning it to itself it is made ineffective…it is the sincere expression of a permanent state of things:”[4] Giovanni Battista Scalabrini wrote this in 1887.  Migrations, therefore, are a structural reality of our time.  It is everyone’s task to look after it for the common good, also by stressing respect for the norms, traditions and customs of the countries that welcome the migrants.

Therefore, the Encyclical Caritas in veritate confirms that the migratory flows, with all the components of the movement of entry, transit and exit, are no longer an experience limited to some areas of the planet.  They constitute a worldwide and permanent phenomenon, bearing in mind that together with the international migrations, massive displacements also take place within a one same region and that urbanization has now become a characteristic fact of modern societies, also as a consequence of the internal and international economic-productive imbalances.  In fact, Benedict XVI writes: “We are facing a social phenomenon of epoch-making proportions that requires bold, forward-looking policies of international cooperation if it is to be handled effectively”

In any case, the horizon we must not lose sight of is the centrality of the human person, “the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued…in his or her integrity” (No. 25), with attention to the protection of the rights both of the individual migrants and their families, and of the societies that receive them.

However, while the problematic aspects stand out rather easily, the positive elements should not be underestimated, even if only from the economic viewpoint related to development.  In fact, “foreign workers, despite any difficulties concerning integration, make a significant contribution to the economic development of the host country through their labor, besides that which they make to their country of origin through the money they send home” (Ibid.).  Precisely in the area of the market system, however, the Holy Father’s voice rings out with tones of alarm and denunciation to warn those who exploit the migrants’ weak and vulnerable condition because “these laborers cannot be considered as a commodity or a mere workforce. They must not, therefore, be treated like any other factor of production”


Lastly, the concluding statement in No. 62 re-proposes principles on which the Church is not willing to negotiate precisely because in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption, she contemplates the dignity and respect of every creature wanted “in the image and likeness” of the Creator.  Therefore, “every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance” (ibid.).

Migrations, in this framework, are alongside “the technical forces in play, the global interrelations, the damaging effects on the real economy of badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing […] and the unregulated exploitation of the earth’s resources” (ibid.). Migrations, moreover, have a twofold value connotation: first, they have reached considerable dimensions today and so due to this quantitative weight alone, they cannot be neglected.  Second, the migrant’s wounded face is increasing clear in the turmoil of movements which are not an expression of free choice, but “often provoked”: that is, caused by erroneous policies, in particular to thwart illegal immigration.  In fact, the more restrictive the measures are, the more the number of illegal migrants and traffickers in foreign labor grows.[7]  So even the most protected borders are crossed daily by people who flee from unacceptable living conditions and do not stop before dangers and obstacles of any kind.

Finally, it is a question of improper management when integration is hindered by impracticable conditions and when everyone’s participation in looking after the common good is just a proclamation that has no way of being carried out.

For this reason, two extremes need to be avoided: absorption, the complete assimilation into the dominant society to the detriment of the migrant’s identity, and exclusion, which includes the danger of marginalization.[8]

“Each man is loved by God. No one is excluded from his love. This is the principle of universal salvation”, as John Paul II stated in the Message for the 1987 World Day of Migrants[9].

For us, believers, the foundations of respect and hospitality for migrants are contained in the Word of God.  In fact, the invitation to love foreigners comes from God himself: “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God” (Lev 19:33s).  The New Testament recommends hospitality, welcome and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings.  Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, for examples, proclaims that we are no longer “strangers c c and sojourners, but…fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19).

Unfortunately, the biblical messages in favor of foreigners have not always had adequate application in catechesis and praxis.  Indeed, the little attention given to the biblical text may be one of the reasons why Europe has given in, and still gives in to forms of nationalism and xenophobic closing.  The presence of migrants in our midst reminds us that from the biblical standpoint, freedom and well-being are gifts and as such can only be maintained if they are shared with those who do not have them.  So since we give value to the person and the dignity of each person as an image of God, it is important to be committed so that the equality of all human persons will be realized.

Indeed, the migrations of peoples raise some serious questions today: How to welcome the new immigrants? To what point should we go in accepting the life traditions of those who come from other cultures? What real possibilities do we have to experience an encounter of civilizations that will not be a clash or a conflict?  These questions do not admit simplistic answers that are all the more attractive the more they are demagogic and unrealistic.  In the new, irreversible pluricultural context, what social cohabitation should be built so it will be just and solidarity-based?  How should the society be so it will be at the service of the people and the different human groups that compose it?

In attempting to give a response, a threefold model can be hypothesized: a society that rejects differences; a society that tolerates differences; a society that includes differences.


The Church wants to affirm the culture of respect, equality and the evaluation of diversities which  sees the migrants as bearers of values and resources.  For these reasons, she suggests revisiting policies and norms that jeopardize the protection of fundamental rights, such as the right to family reunion, access to citizenship and the stability of one’s migratory project.  She also expresses strong dissent regarding the ever more restrictive praxis in granting the refugee status, and the more and more frequent recourse to the detention and expulsion of migrants.

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How can one change, alter or add to this?

Thanks to His Grace Archbishop Vegliò for his wise words…


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