This article makes three key points on the dire reality of the US-Mexican border. Firstly, we examine the migratory phenomenon in general and with regard to what is currently taking place on the U.S.-Mexico border, as a sign of the times. There is no better adjective than hostility to describe that reality, marked as it is by exploitation and death. Secondly, based on Catholic Social Teaching, we present the virtue of hospitality as an appropriate response to these patterns. Finally, in a pastoral perspective, we suggest how hostility can be replaced by hospitality.
Migration has always been part of human history. There are many factors that pushed and still push people to move from one place to another. In recent times, migration has become more and more complicated, but this does not prevent people from migrating. The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century have seen an unprecedented wave of mass migrations. In order to migrate, people either have to go through daunting bureaucratic gymnastics to get a visa or are simply denied access to the land of their dreams for no good reason. But who can hold back a determined soul from migrating? This is a question that must be considered.
More often than not, people migrate because their lives are threatened. Those who flee the misery of their region or their country and wish to find a better life elsewhere set off with a destination in mind, but without any certainty that they will reach it. In this quest for a better life, they are often met with hostility. This is not to say that every attempt to migrate to another region or country always entails an experience of hostility, nor is hostility intrinsic to migration. However, many places can indeed be considered to be hostile environments for migrants; the US-Mexico border is certainly one of them.
Migrants at that border are faced with hostility on many levels. The means of travel and security checks, far from leading to a safe port, place migrants in extremely dangerous conditions. As a result, they are exploited, and worse, many have disappeared without a trace. Paradoxically, they lose their lives while looking for a better life. Life is lost in the search of it!
As an answer to hostility, the virtue of hospitality, in principle, is capable of creating conditions where migrants can be considered as full subjects, as children of God. In this sense, the virtue of hospitality can inform a theoretical framework to sustain a common ground based on equality, where the welcomed and the hospitable can enrich each other. In this light, the suffering of the migrant becomes a challenge and an invitation to action, to translate hospitality into practice. Practicing hospitality means listening, in order to be able to create bonds of trust. True hospitality is never neutral, it entails standing up for others. This can be a hard task, but the way of hospitality leads us there, on the way to communion.
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