Faith in Public Life helped to lead communications and media outreach for the bus tour.
The political staffer looked perturbed as 20 immigration activists, all clad in brown sweatshirts with the words “Act. Fast,” filed out of their charter bus one by one and crammed into Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s district office.
Some had been on the road for a full six weeks, collectively logging 14,000 miles, crossing 31 states and stopping in more than 80 congressional districts on a cross-country bus tour that had commenced in Los Angeles. They had politely and persistently made the case for immigration reform to any lawmaker (but mostly staff members) who would listen, and on a wet spring day this week, their journey had led them to the foggy hills of the Shenandoah Valley.
So goes the grueling, often glacially slow struggle for those who have dedicated not just six weeks but months, years and decades of their lives to immigration reform — a mission like a mirage, one that has been as elusive as it seems tantalizingly close.
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John Gehring is the Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life.
Pope Francis has dominated headlines and become a global spiritual rock star since his election on March 13. The 77-year old Argentine Jesuit is making waves by challenging Catholic leaders to build a “church for the poor,” urging the hierarchy not to be “obsessed” with a few hot-button issues and challenging “trickle-down” economic theories. In a sign of his unlikely widespread appeal, Pope Francis was named Person of the Year by Time magazine and The Advocate, America’s oldest magazine for the LGBT community
This is surely one of the most quotable Vicars of Christ in memory. Here are my favorites.
1. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” — Interview aboard the Papal Plane after World Youth Day in Brazil.
2. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” We must always consider the person. — Interview with Jesuit Catholic journals around the world.
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Faith in Public Life helped to lead communications and media outreach for the fast.
WASHINGTON — As the Republican-controlled House of Representatives wrapped up its work for the year on Thursday with no progress on immigration, leaders from both parties said they would return to the issue early in the new year.
Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said at a hearing that immigration would be a “top priority” in 2014. He said the House would advance a series of bills to strengthen enforcement, improve the legal immigration process and find “the appropriate legal status for those who are not here lawfully today.”
Despite the biting chill, the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, surrounded herself on the steps of the Capitol with dozens of Democratic lawmakers and with advocates who had been fasting in a tent on the National Mall to push the House to vote on an immigration bill.
Ms. Pelosi’s political theater was intended to identify Democrats with the fasters, whose protest had little effect on House Republican leaders but gained a wide following among Latino, immigrant and religious groups across the country.
As House members prepared to leave town, the activists did not seem discouraged by the lack of results from their efforts, which they said had expanded the reach of their movement. Although some Republicans expressed irritation at the tactics, advocates said they could expect more of the same next year.
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Faith in Public Life helped to lead communications and media outreach efforts for the fast.
Mendoza, an undocumented mother of three who works as a motel housekeeper, is one of about a dozen activists fasting on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol. The fasters want the House of Representatives to vote on legislation that would grant some 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. The bill was approved earlier this year by the Senate but has met stiff resistance in the GOP-controlled House.
The “Fast for Families,” organized by faith, immigration and labor groups, began on Nov. 12. Four activists who went nearly 22 days without eating ended their fast last Tuesday. About a dozen others, including Mendoza, are carrying on with the strike, some fasting for one to several days at a time, others indefinitely, in the hope that they can compel Republican leadership in the House to bring the bill to a vote.
The activists have had a slew of visitors, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, many members of Congress and some from Obama’s Cabinet. One tent is adorned with cards written by well-wishers who have stopped in (“Adelante companeros” or “Keep going, friends,” one of the missives reads), and a table is lined with items found in border areas believed to belong to migrants, including a worn sneaker.
“The time is now for us to be under this big tent and talk about the issues that affect our communities because if we keep trying to fight the battles separately, we’ll never win,” the group’s executive director [of Dream Defenders] Phillip Agnew, 28, of Miami, Fla.
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FPL worked to organize the college campus activists and helped to lead press outreach for the fast.
From the interfaith clergy to the civil rights heroes, from the union activists and community organizers to one of the youngest members of Congress, those involved in an event Tuesday spanned the wide range of people working to keep Washington’s attention on comprehensive immigration reform.
Marking the 22nd day of the Fast for Families, a prayer-and-fasting activity being observed around the country as well, four people who had consumed only water for 22 days broke their fast and symbolically handed over the role to others.
Students and faculty at 11 Catholic colleges were participating in the fast as well. And a letter of solidarity signed by leaders of nearly 20 Catholic institutions was released Tuesday.
“Your courageous example reminds us all that the issue of immigration reform is not about partisan politics or narrow ideological agendas,” it said. “This is a profound moral issue, as old as the Hebrew prophets and the Gospel, that calls into question the kind of nation we aspire to pass on to our children.”
Among the letter’s signers were Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; two former ambassadors to the Holy See; the presidents of several Catholic colleges or universities and representatives of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK; the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
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