Villanova student organizer Morgan Gruenewald wrote about her experience meeting the “Fast for Families” team when they visited her school. Morgan is now leading an effort to collect student-signed postcards supporting reform which will be delivered to Rep. Patrick Meehan’s office before the end of spring semester. Here is what Morgan had to say about the tour’s stop at Villanova:
As a student, an American citizen, and a person of faith, I am proud to be a very new member of a vibrant, passionate, and important movement to reform the way our country addresses immigration. I find it disappointing that I still feel compelled to use the word: “addresses.” I wish that I confidently say that our country embraces immigration, but I still feel that that is far from the truth. Too many view the need for comprehensive immigration reform as a political option, rather than the humanitarian crisis and the moral duty that it is.
Despite the reluctance of several key players to consider immigration reform in a meaningful way, I am continually inspired by the work of activists, faith leaders, DREAMers, and students to advocate for immigrant families. As a newcomer to this movement, and I wasn’t sure what to expect last week when asking students to sign advocacy postcards for the first time. The response far exceeded my expectations, as students volunteered to share their stories and to take the time to write out personal messages. This is obviously a very local example, but there are broader narratives as well, including the solidarity fasts of Fast for Families and other immigrant rights groups, the barrage of lobby visits, and the mass at the border last week. Everywhere, every day, there is real, inspiring work being done to bring immigration to the forefront not only of the political agenda, but of the public conscience.
Through my work, I have come to realize a platform for immigration advocacy that revolves around two concepts– compassion and enlightened self-interest. Although I borrowed this framework from an anti-poverty economist, Paul Collier, I still believe it applies very well to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Compassion is a vague concept, but I like to think of it as a recognition of the inherent dignity of every person. Recognizing and respecting human dignity necessitates that we confront and eliminate structures that rob individuals of their dignity, namely, the current immigration system that has been the root of so many broken families, deaths in the desert, and unrecognized potential. Enlightened self-interest is another ambiguous concept, but in this case it simply means recognizing the tangible benefits of comprehensive immigration reform. As I mentioned, there is no reason that our country should not embrace its immigrant population. Beyond the fact that immigrants do wonderful things for our economy, they revitalize and renew communities, and the positive effect that immigrants have on the lives of everyone they touch is truly immeasurable.
At this event, clergy and students from other nearby Catholic colleges and universities, including Cabrini College, Neumann University, and St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia traveled to Villanova to take part in this event.
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On Sunday, a former Ku Klux Klan leader attacked two Jewish centers in Kansas City, taking the lives of the three people just before the beginning of Passover. Such horrors are difficult to comprehend at any place and time, but especially so in religious communities around holy days. It is a time for grief and prayer.
This Holy Week was already filled with somber remembrances of senseless violence in our nation, from last year’s Boston Marathon bombing to the anniversaries of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings. But as our friends at Faiths United to End Gun Violence have noted, we must also remember another anniversary: one year ago this week the U.S. Senate failed to stand up to the NRA and pass commonsense background check legislation.
Such legislation might have stopped Sunday’s killing spree. The shooter in Kansas City purchased his gun through a so-called “straw buyer” – someone with a clean background who buys guns for others – a practice that the Senate bill would have cracked down on.
While scripture reminds us there is a time for everything, clearly this is a time to act to end this needless destruction of innocent life. Faith in Public Life stands with groups like Faiths United to End Gun Violence and PICO National Network’s Lifelines to Healing campaign in calling on Congress to act now to prevent gun violence. As we enter the 2014 election season, we must keep these life and death issues close to our hearts and lift up our voices until they echo in the halls of power.
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When “Fast for Families” tour rolled into Cincinnati, students from the University of Dayton made a trip to meet up with the bus. University of Dayton student Abigail Lambert wrote about her experience, as well as her school’s continuing work around immigration reform.
On the rainy Saturday morning of March 29, three University of Dayton students braved the elements to support the “Fast for Families Across America” bus as it arrived at Xavier University.
The “Fast for Families” bus tour calls for immigration reform to be voted on and passed in Congress. They spread the message of DREAMers and the need for new immigration laws. There have been “Fast for Families” rallies in cities all over the country, sharing DREAMers’ stories and letting Congress know that immigration issues are important, and immigration reform has widespread support from constituents.
On Saturday, after songs, clapping and cheering, a DREAMer spoke about her experience as an immigrant in the United States. She gave a moving speech about getting through college in spite of the hardships of immigration. Her name is Fabiola, and the Flyers for Immigration Reform movement has contacted her to speak again at the University of Dayton in April.
In the week leading up to the rally in Cincinnati, Flyers for Immigration Reform was very active, spreading the F4F message, urging Congressman Mike Turner to support immigration reform legislation and praying the rosary for the group. The previous Wednesday, 20 students, faculty and alums fasted in solidarity with immigrants and in preparation of the tour stopping in Cincinnati.
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The “Fast for Families” bus made a stop at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Two of the student organizers there, Mariel Rodruguez and Grace Johnson, wrote a post for us about their experience planning and taking part in this stop on the tour. Here’s what they wrote:
In the midst of mid-terms and excitement for the upcoming spring break, students and faculty from Gonzaga University joined community members to stand in solidarity for immigration reform. Around noon on March 7, the university welcomed the “Fast for Families Across America” bus tour on the steps of the Crosby Student Center.
Fasters Dae Joong and Rudy Lopez shared their stories and experiences as they reached 22 days of fasting. Their powerful words and their passion for immigration reform were heard by students walking by, encouraging them to take a moment to listen. To make this experience close to our hearts, a Gonzaga sophomore, Manny Lopez, talked about growing up in a household with an undocumented mom and sisters. Here’s a video of Manny telling his story:
The event closed with prayer, and Rudy Lopez created a call to action: to fast each Wednesday during Lent, whether it was one meal or all meals.
The group met again later that evening. The audience consisted of students, University Ministry, Spokane community members and a group that came from Mattawa, Washington. Members of the “Fast for Families” tour talked more about their time on the road and the stories they have heard. Gonzaga student Mariel Rodriguez spoke about being an organizer on campus, and the difficulties and beauties of educating and advocating for change.
Bishop Blasé Joseph Cupich spoke in Spanish and in English about his commitment to this change. After the speeches, the crowd began chanting, and finished off with dancing to the mariachi band that played beautiful music.
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In a nation that keeps 2.2 million people behind bars — the majority for nonviolent drug offenses — the moral urgency of criminal justice reform is crystal clear.
And even though the scale of the problem is daunting, faith leaders are powering a movement that can overturn this deep institutional injustice.
Consider Louisiana, the state with America’s highest incarceration rate.
On Monday, diverse clergy leaders peacefully rallied at the state capitol to call legislation that ends unnecessary employment discrimination against ex-offenders, as well as sentencing reforms for nonviolent drug crimes.
This agenda is no pipe dream. Next door in deeply conservative Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant just signed a new law that eases mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses and gives judges more sentencing options besides prison, earning praise from across the ideological spectrum. This is an issue that transcends left and right.
Mass incarceration not only wastes billions of tax dollars, but also divides families and needlessly undermines the God-given potential of millions of human beings. And it’s disproportionately devastating in African-American and Latino communities.
It is all too often a “justice system” in name only. As people of faith, we must right this wrong. Together, this is one mountain we can move.
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