“Give Me Your Oppressed….?”

By Father Anthony Mellace

To say that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are useful for our economy, is an extremely selfish reason for having them here in our country. It is even contrary to the very nature of our nation as to her sublime calling and mission. The very greatness of America consists in her having been the wonderful haven for all oppressed peoples of the world. Those who arrived at her shores have always found a place and refuge from intolerable tyrannies and dictatorships from other continents.

Right from day 1 of her history, this country has gathered into her arms those persecuted for their religious beliefs in England and other nations. In her territory, everyone could freely worship God as their conscience inspired him. This type of liberty was respected here. The economic disasters that hit Ireland, Germany, Italy and Poland brought hungry mouths to our cities. We provided these peoples with opportunities to better their lives and relieved them from their sufferings.

Our Latin friends who come to America do so to escape the political and social turmoil and confusion rampant in their countries. They come here to re-organize their lives, minds and hearts. We, as a charitable, kind, patient and understanding people, could do much to help them bring about order and prosperity to their native lands. President Bush would love to see democracy spread all over the world. I agree, in principle, with him. However, it is not through wars, use of force or the imposition of political institutions that democracy is brought about. Before being a politico-social reality, democracy, before all else, is a spirit and mentality. In other words, it is something that needs to be incarnated into one’s soul.

There is no better way to teach democracy than by actually living in a democratic state. Many immigrants with whom I conversed told me they loved living in America and learning about democracy through all they have seen in this country: the order, respect, freedom, justice, cleanliness, honesty, friendship and kindness that is breathed in such a society. This all is recorded into their minds and hearts such that when they do return to their countries, they bring it back as a wonderful and unique experience and memory to live and share. That is the correct way to promote democracy in the world.

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