The arrival of Pope Francis in Washington last week is said to have stricken an important chord in the anguished debate over immigration reform. In his historic address to Congress last Thursday, where bipartisan bickering has halted the passing of comprehensive immigration reform legislation, the spiritual leader asked lawmakers to fix our broken immigration system, to show compassion towards "foreigners," and to demonstrate immigration leniency. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Holy Father's message, in addition to promoting immigration advocacy, was a subtle indictment of the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been dominating the Republican platforms of many candidates in the race for presidential nomination.
Whether Pope Francis' visit will have the desired effect (referred to as the "Francis Effect") of convincing U.S. lawmakers to move the dial towards immigration reform, one thing is clear: his unwavering pro-immigration messages have helped to build momentum for immigration advocates to promote long overdue immigration policy changes. Additionally, it will be interesting to see if other Republican candidates will soften their stance towards immigration. History has shown that anti-immigrant sentiments negatively impact electability. As one example, Mitt Romney’s rhetoric about “self-deportation” alienated Latino voters and likely contributed to his defeat in 2012.
At the Shulman Law Group, LLC, we praise Pope Francis for forwarding the dialogue about the import of immigration reform and for his strong message of compassion and leniency towards immigrants living in the United States. We will continue to provide up-to-date information regarding this critically important issue and to report whether the Pope's visit will translate into important changes in Congress.