Faith Leaders Launch Nationwide Mobilization for Immigration Reform with 100,000s Postcards and 100 Local Events
WASHINGTON, DC – In an unprecedented show of religious support for just, humane, comprehensive immigration reform, religious leaders from across the theological and ideological spectrum and Members of Congress kicked off a nationwide mobilization for immigration reform today on a conference call with reporters. “Together, Not Torn: Families Can’t Wait for Immigration Reform,” includes the delivery of hundreds of thousands of pro-reform postcards – more than a million within the next month – to Members of Congress from people of faith in their states and districts and 100 events across the country during President’s Day recess and into early March.
“People of faith are calling for immigration reform because every day they witness the human consequences of the broken immigration system – families separated, workers exploited and communities in fear. We pray that Congress will have the moral courage to enact humane immigration reform immediately, because our families and communities can no longer wait,” said Jen Smyers of Church World Service.
Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish and Mainline Protestant leaders were joined by Reps. Mike Honda (CA-15) and Yvette Clark (NY-11) to press for immigration reform that keeps families together, creates pathways to citizenship and protects the dignity of all workers.
Father Jon Pedigo, pastor at St. Julie Billiart Parish in San Jose, CA described the devastating impact of our broken immigration system in his community: “Two weeks ago local police conducted a traffic check in a nearby neighborhood to my parish. Out of fear, dozens of families didn’t pick up their children from school, leaving the children standing in the rain waiting for their parents. Local businesses noted a 70% loss of store traffic. Every day thousands of Silicon Valley families live in fear and in some cases panic that their families will be separated….The Catholic Church and all her institutions will step up efforts to educate across the political and economic divide of blue and red to call for reform.” Volunteers in Fr. Pedigo’s community are traveling to different parishes, high schools, and area universities to speak about the broken system and the need for reform, and the faith community is hosting a prayer vigil for immigration reform in San Jose next week.
Thousands of people of faith at 100 local events across the country throughout the month of February and into March will deliver the moral message on immigration reform to state and federal legislators, reminding them of the urgent need to pass immigration reform that protects our values as a nation. Just today, faith and community leaders delivered nearly 7,000 postcards to U.S. Representatives and Senators in Colorado. Next week, hundreds will gather in Austin, TX alongside business leaders and elected officials to make the case for immigration reform. The following week, people of faith will gather for an interfaith vigil in Sacramento, CA. Similar events are happening across the country, in places like Georgia, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. (Please see below for a full list of cities and town where events are being held.)
Earlier in February, evangelical groups held vigils for immigration reform in six cities across the country, from Chicago to Memphis to Miami, only one part of a burgeoning evangelical movement in support of immigration reform. On today’s press conference call, Dr. Galen Carey, Director of Government Affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals told of a woman he recently met in Phoenix, Maria, who was unable to press charges against the drunk driver who killed her son. “Evangelicals have long pressed for immigration reform. But as immigrants have joined our churches in increasing numbers, our pastors are hearing stories like Maria’s every day,” Dr. Carey said. “This is why we are stepping up our efforts to hold President Obama and Members of Congress accountable for their promises to pass meaningful immigration reform this year.”
Members of Congress acknowledged the powerful role of the faith community in drawing attention to the plight of families under the immigration status quo, and calling Congress to enact reform. “In the immigration debate, the faith community reminds us of the importance of living out the proverb ‘I am my brother’s keeper,’” said Rep. Mike Honda. “We cannot stand aside and allow millions of families to continue to suffer injustice and hardship while living in the shadows due thanks to a broken family immigration system. Now is the time to remember the people behind the statistics and build broad coalitions to finally achieve comprehensive immigration reform.”
People of faith were heartened to see immigration reform legislation introduced in December by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, and are asking that Congress and the Obama administration keep their promises on delivering sorely needed immigration reform. “America is a nation of great humanity and it is time our immigration system reflects that. Keeping families together is an essential component to any immigration reform legislation that comes out of Congress,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke. “It is something that I hold dear to my heart, as a child of immigrant parents, whose family emigrated here from Jamaica. I also witness its importance to my constituents, as the Representative of one of the largest districts in the country, with a diverse population of immigrants. We need to keep families together!”
Rev. Jennifer Kottler, a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), director of policy and advocacy at Sojourners, and spokeswoman for Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, said, “The faith community is ready to lead our nation’s return to a place of welcome and opportunity for everyone. Let there be no question of where the faith community stands collectively on this issue: we stand on the side of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger among us.”
Rabbi Abie Inger, founding director of the Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH shared the personal story of his Holocaust-refugee parents who could not gain entry to the U.S. following WWII, and said: “Let us commit today, that this tragedy of injustice in immigration will end; that families will no longer be separated; that fathers and mothers will not cower in darkness fearful of a raid; that men and women of every color in the world will have the opportunity to earn a wage openly, to pay their taxes, to study the English language, to go to school and to pursue citizenship in this great land.”
Nationwide events and postcard deliveries organized as part of “Together, Not Torn: Families Can’t Wait for Immigration Reform” are sponsored by members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants Campaign, and We Were Strangers, Too: The Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform.
Local events are taking place in:
Little Rock, AR
San Jose, CA
Hespera/High Desert, CA
San Francisco, CA (2)
San Jose, CA
Morena Valley, CA
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
La Verne, CA
Grand Junction, CO
New Haven, CT
New Haven, CT
Des Moines, IA
Chicago, IL (7)
Granite City, IL (4)
North Easton, MA
Kansas City, MO/KS
Siler City, NC
Jersey City, NJ
Mount Kisco, NY
New York City, NY
Philadelphia, PA (2)
Houston, TX (2)
Dallas, TX (2)
Green Bay, WI