When Pope Francis visited the U.S. for the first time near the end of September, he made stops in Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church made history by becoming the first Pope to speak at a joint meeting of Congress. His message was loud and clear: immigrants are people too and should be treated as such.
“We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” said Francis in his heartfelt speech to Congress. “I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”
Timing is everything
Pope Francis is just the latest and biggest name to weigh in on the matter of immigration reform. With so much controversy surrounding immigration reform in the world of politics, the Pope’s comments have successfully grabbed the attention of American politicians. Plus, the number of foreign-born U.S. residents is at an all-time high. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 42.4 million Americans were born in another country. Politically speaking, Hispanics will have a large impact on the next presidential election. Forbes reported that almost 12 percent of the eligible voters will be Hispanic, which could realistically have a relevant influence in some states, especially ones that are considered “swing states.”
Although Pope Francis never explicitly mentioned Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump, their two views on the subject of immigration could not be on more opposite ends of the spectrum. Pope Francis’s visit clearly had an effect on Trump though. Showing a change in political strategy, Trump backed off from his consistent, incendiary commentary about immigrants. But that doesn’t mean the Pope was spared judgment from the GOP lightning rod that is Trump.
“If he is in favor of illegal immigration, he doesn’t understand it,” Trump said of Pope Francis in an interview with The New York Times. “Nobody has properly explained it to him. And I’m Christian.”
There are almost 70 million Catholics in the U.S., according to Forbes. Whether or not their views align with those of their religious leader will be evident in the results of the next election.