Pope Francis will encourage illegal immigrants to enter the United States across the Mexican border when he visits in September.

Following his address before Congress on September 24, the pontiff will meet with immigrants and Hispanic families at Philadelphia’s Independence Mall.

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the head of a papal advisory group of cardinals, said in March at Georgetown University that Francis would lead by example and cross the border if he had the time.

During a trip to Latin America in July the Pope criticized the “globalization of indifference” toward illegal immigrants and said it is the responsibility of government and society to address the problem.

In June Francis said Americans worried about illegal immigration and the financial burden it imposes on tax payers and institutions should seek God’s forgiveness.

“I invite you all to ask forgiveness for the persons and the institutions who close the door to these people who are seeking a family, who are seeking to be protected,” he said.

Illegal immigration is driven primarily by poverty. Central America is the poorest region in Latin America. More than half of the population in Honduras lives on less than $4 per day and in Guatemala and El Salvador the figures are 53.5 percent and 42.7 percent, respectively.

Many illegal immigrants receive government assistance when they enter the United States.

“Immigrant households’ use of welfare tends to be much higher than natives for food assistance programs and Medicaid,” a report by the Center for Immigration Studies reported in 2011.

“An unwillingness to work is not the reason immigrant welfare use is high. The vast majority (95 percent) of immigrant households with children had at least one worker in 2009. But their low education levels mean that more than half of these working immigrant households with children still accessed the welfare system during 2009.”

Drug-related gang violence also plays a role in illegal migration. Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala suffer the world’s first, fourth, and fifth highest homicide rates, respectively, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Guatemala City is “one of the most dangerous places on earth” and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala reports “the widespread killing of women and children.”

In July presidential candidate Donald Trump said Mexico encourages illegal immigration.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”


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