What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration?

In looking at the debate over immigration, it is almost automatically assumed that the Church’s position is one of unconditional charity toward those who enter the nation, legally or illegally.

However, is this the case? What does the Bible say about immigration? What do Church doctors and theologians say? Above all, what does the greatest of doctors, Saint Thomas Aquinas, say about immigration? Does his opinion offer some insights to the burning issues now shaking the nation and blurring the national borders?

Immigration is a modern problem and so some might think that the medieval Saint Thomas would have no opinion about the problem. And yet, he does. One has only to look in his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, in the first part of the second part, question 105, article 3 (I-II, Q. 105, Art. 3). There one finds his analysis based on biblical insights that can add to the national debate. They are entirely applicable to the present.

Saint Thomas: “Man’s relations with foreigners are twofold: peaceful, and hostile: and in directing both kinds of relation the Law contained suitable precepts.”

Commentary: In making this affirmation, Saint Thomas affirms that not all immigrants are equal. Every nation has the right to decide which immigrants are beneficial, that is, “peaceful,” to the common good. As a matter of self-defense, the State can reject those criminal elements, traitors, enemies and others who it deems harmful or “hostile” to its citizens.

The second thing he affirms is that the manner of dealing with immigration is determined by law in the cases of both beneficial and “hostile” immigration. The State has the right and duty to apply its law.

Saint Thomas: ……..

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