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People of Faith Strengthen the Fight for Immigration Reform

December 03, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno


This post was first featured in the Reform Immigration FOR America blog


On November 13, when Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano addressed advocates and the media at the Center for American Progress, she pointed to the “fundamental changes” from 2007 that have shifted the debate on comprehensive immigration reform making it more attainable this time around.


She cited the greater involvement of key constituencies like law enforcement and faith communities as evidence that a larger and more diverse coalition is deeply involved in the fight for a workable solution to our current broken immigration system.


Last week, people of faith at events nationwide demonstrated their strong commitment to immigration reform. Faith leaders agree: immigration reform is a moral issue, and we must craft a new system that is fair, humane, and the right thing to do.


Breaking Bread and Barrier


The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a partnership of faith-based organizations that advocates for immigration reform, hosted the Breaking Bread and Barrier Events during the Thanksgiving week. In cities all over the country, people of faith organized prayer vigils, potlucks and townhalls, and met with their members of Congress to push for immigration reform.


The events highlighted the stories of immigrants in local communities, the work of faith communities in welcoming immigrants, and the urgent need to fix the immigration system now.



A Prayer for Immigration Reform in Riverside


The New Jersey Immigration Policy Network and faith-based organizations and coalitions from throughout the state, including the New Jersey Catholic Conference, hosted an interfaith gathering in support of immigration reform in Riverside, New Jersey on November 23.


The town of Riverside has experienced first hand the negative impact of a broken immigration system. Because of Congress’s inaction on immigration reform,, Riverside decided to take immigration enforcement into their own hands and embraced restrictive local immigration policies. An anti-immigrant ordinance enacted in 2006 led to a chain of events that had devastating economic consequences for the town. In addition to expensive and exhaustive legal disputes due to this ordinance, immigrants —who had been attributed prior to the ordinance to the revitalization of Riverside — left the town taking their entrepreneurship and purchasing power with them.


The New Jersey’s Trenton Monitor reported on the Riverside’s interfaith vigil:


Situated in a community that has had more than its share immigration related concerns in recent years, St. Peter’s Church in Riverside … provided a most appropriate setting to host an interfaith gathering Nov. 23 where people of all faith traditions came together to pray and show their support of humane immigration reform.

Marlene Lao-Collins, director of social concerns for the New Jersey Catholic Conference, said she viewed the interfaith gathering as a way of bringing a diverse group of religious leaders, lay people and immigrants together to demonstrate a common ground for just, humane and comprehensive immigration reform regardless of their status and to bring attention to the “positive contributions that [immigrants] make to our society.


Evangelical Church of America: We Need Comprehensive Immigration Reform


The Evangelical Church of America, the largest Lutheran organization in America, approved a resolution titled, “Toward Compassionate, Just and Wise Immigration Reform.” The resolution provides guidance to its congregation on issues related to immigration reform and the protection of immigrant families and workers. The ELCA resolution declares that “now is the time…to pursue comprehensive immigration reform through the establishment of laws better aligned with America’s historic values…and more responsive to the needs of immigrants, society, and the economy.”


People of faith are joining forces and raising their voices in strong support for a humane solution to our broken immigration system. Their voices reaffirm the moral urgency for reform and the need to have an immigration system that reflects our American values of fairness, justice and shared responsibility and keeps American families together.

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