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Faith Coalition Stands with 2nd Grader Who Spoke Up for Families to Michelle Obama

May 20, 2010, 11:39 am | Posted by Kristin Ford

Religious Leaders Call for President, Congress to Put Families Ahead of Politics, Pass Immigration Reform

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is standing today with the seven-year-old girl who gave voice to the reality of our broken immigration system yesterday by asking First Lady Michelle Obama if her undocumented mother will be deported. At First Lady Obama’s and Mexico’s First Lady Margarita Zavala’s visit to an elementary school in Silver Spring, MD yesterday, the second-grade student’s simple yet powerful question to Mrs. Obama about “Barack Obama… taking everybody away that doesn’t have papers” and how her mom “doesn’t have any [papers]” revealed the tragedy that parents are torn away from their children as America waits for Congress to pass immigration reform.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a partnership of faith-based organizations (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Sikh, and Muslim), is re-affirming its call for immigration reform today because each day in its communities around the country, faith leaders witness families facing the same frightening reality as that little girl – the ever-present threat of separation from their loved ones. The Interfaith Immigration Coalition calls on Congress and the Administration to put families before politics and take leadership to enact immigration reform this year.

“This exchange between Mrs. Obama and a little girl in Silver Spring, Maryland, calls our attention to the overwhelming fear that our outdated immigration laws bring into the lives of innocent little children across our country,” said Rev. Jennifer Riggs, Director of Refugee and Immigration Ministries for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a member of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. “No child should be subjected to the constant fear that his or her parent will be torn away and sent to another country. We must reform our immigration laws so that they respect the unity of the family and provide a way for this mother and every parent to provide for their children in a dignified manner.”

The poignant exchange between a second-grade student and First Lady Michelle Obama illustrates more clearly than ever that families can’t wait any longer for Congress and the Administration to take action on humane, just, comprehensive immigration reform.

“It is immoral that little children are carrying the burden of our broken immigration policies in this country. By working hard on comprehensive immigration reform President Obama has an opportunity to literally save the lives of and inspire an entire generation of children. To not do so jeopardizes the future of these children and will leave them believing that justice has been lost in this country,” said Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, a member of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby, a member of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, said, “This innocent little girl represents the painful fallout of our nation’s deeply flawed immigration system. Today, thousands of immigrant families are living in fear and being torn apart because Congress refuses to act. A young mother, a U.S. citizen, recently talked about how her ‘heart trembled’ when her Mexican husband tried to join her in the U.S. so he could be a father to their children. Now he is in a U.S. prison and their young daughter sadly sings ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to him over the phone. The brokenhearted mother asked, ‘What is the American value behind ripping families apart?’ This is a question that Congress must answer by fixing our immigration system now.”

Faith leaders are also calling on the Obamas to think about their family when weighing whether or not to take action on immigration reform. “Michelle Obama has her mother close at hand. She must have heard this little girl’s plea for the very same wish, to have her own mother with her, not taken from her. A child may not understand ‘deported,’ but she will understand departed,” said Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO of Church World Service, a member of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. “With a First Family that values the generations, we hope our Administration will listen and take to heart “the least of these,” calling a bipartisan summit to move immigration reform forward — in time to keep families together.”

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