Whichever U.S. administration will start work in January should make comprehensive immigration reform a priority. The Catholic Church is ready to help.

It’s wrong to claim that the church’s current effort on behalf of migrants is some newfangled socialist contrivance. Scripture brims with references to welcoming those from beyond our circle.

The Pentateuch, the ancient first five books of the Hebrew Bible, cites “the stranger” almost 50 times. Deuteronomy calls for more than mere courtesy; it demands support. In Christian Scripture, the Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan and his image of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 make it abundantly clear that God will judge us on how we treat those who come to us in need. The stranger, it turns out, is Jesus in disguise.

Catholics who particularly love the pre-Vatican II traditions of the church may find courage by looking to 1952, when Pope Pius XII wrote “Exsul familia,” an apostolic constitution on migration. The pope asked nations to open their doors to refugees and migrants after World War II. For Pope Pius, economic destitution was reason enough to extend what he characterized as motherly love.

In 2009, Pope Benedict recognized the suffering and aspiration of migrants. “Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance,” he wrote in “Caritas in Veritate.”

Pope Francis’ beautiful call to accompany migrants flows from this earlier teaching. Our tradition on migration is solid, sensible and beneficial to society. We urge our nation’s leaders to use it to form an immigration policy that, as the U.S. bishops have taught, respects human dignity by offering earned legalization, creating a robust guest worker program, keeping families together, restoring due process rights, addressing root causes of migration and focusing enforcement only on those who are truly a threat to public safety.