Papal Visit Could Push Immigration Agenda

Pope Francis in March 2013Well known for his advocacy on behalf of immigrants the world over, Pope Francis will likely continue his crusade for the cause when the pontiff addresses both houses of congress during his visit to the United States in September. In addition to his address to Congressional lawmakers in Washington D.C., the pope’s itinerary during his U.S. visit also includes meetings with immigrants and Hispanic families

Pope Francis has been a vocal advocate for immigrants since he became head of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013. Weighing in on the surge of Central American children crossing into the United States last year, he called the situation a “humanitarian emergency.” The pope has likewise previously noted a “tragic rise” in the number of immigrants fleeing poverty around the world. The pope will underscore his support of immigrants further by entering the United States by crossing over the southern border from Mexico if time allows.

Approximately one-third—169—of congressional lawmakers in Washington D.C. self identify as Catholic. Among the most high profile of these are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-L.A., and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is also a devout Catholic and has invited the last three popes to address Congress.

Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democratic official from Massachusetts, is another Catholic who serves on Capitol Hill. “He’s been clear on our failure to respond appropriately to immigrants and refugees,” Rep. McGovern told Congressional Quarterly. “It may move some, it may not move others, but I hope it makes those who have been obstructionist feel uncomfortable.”

While McGovern anticipates the pope’s focus as immigration, Speaker Boehner’s office put out a statement that steers away from anticipating a single topic. “It will be the first time a pope has visited our Capitol building and also the first time a Pope has addressed a joint session of Congress,” according to a statement from a spokesperson. “While we cannot predict his remarks, we expect he’ll discuss issues that are important to Americans from all walks of life and on both sides of the aisle.”