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Let My People Stay

August 24, 2011, 4:48 pm | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

As Tara noted, the Obama administration’s decision to suspend deportation of undocumented immigrants without criminal records was a commendable move that will keep families together. The President faced legitimate criticism for his excessively aggressive deportation policies, and he did the right thing by listening and changing course.

It was also a rare instance of clear progress on this controversial issue. Progress toward fair, practical immigration reform at the federal level has been marginal at best. While the President enacted “get tough” policies like sending the National Guard to the border, Senators who previously supported comprehensive repeatedly moved the goalposts on what constitutes a “secure” border. And lest we forget, the Senate put on a shameful display of political cowardice last time they took up immigration legislation, when 36 GOP Senators and 5 Democrats filibustered the DREAM Act.

Even faced with a dysfunctional political climate in Washington, those of us who believe repairing our inhumane system is a moral issue can make a difference. The faith community has kept the pressure on in spite of setbacks, and President Obama’s decision to suspend unnecessary deportations proves we’re being heard. The failure of anti-immigrant bills modeled after Arizona’s harsh SB 1070 law in 16 out of 22 state legislatures this year shows that we can organize to defeat bigoted legislation at the state level. Alabama faith leaders are now inspiring us all by fighting to block anti-immigrant legislation that would effectively criminalize their ministry to the undocumented. From Alabama to Washington, the movement to reform a broken system and honor the dignity of immigrants is gaining momentum.

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