Prominent Clergy Converge on Washington for Emergency Prayer Summit, Jericho March: Time is Now for DREAM Act
Faith Leaders and Students from LA, TX, OH, NC, FL, ME, MO, NH, IL, KS Rally and Pray, Reminding Senators of their Urgent Task
With the Senate poised to vote on the DREAM Act before the close of this lame duck session, dozens of prominent clergy – including bishops, national leaders and clergy from numerous key states — converged on the nation’s Capitol today to press Senators to vote in favor of the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill that would give thousands of upstanding young immigrants the opportunity to earn legal status by serving in the military or completing a college education.
These faith leaders, who have led the faith community’s ongoing efforts to reform our broken immigration system, held an emergency prayer summit and “Jericho March” along with over 100 DREAM students, praying and singing as they encircled the U.S. Senate Office Buildings and proclaimed that now is the time for Senators to show moral courage and break down the barriers obstructing passage of the DREAM Act. This evocative event drew inspiration from the Old Testament story of Joshua, who overcame adversity with faithfulness, marching around the city of Jericho seven times and sounding trumpets until the walls fell.
“All across the country, faith leaders are saying ‘now is the time,’” said Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President of the National Council of Churches, which represents 40 million American Christians. “We ought to give talented, upstanding, hardworking youth the opportunity to serve their country in the military or contribute to their country through higher education.”
“We are here to transcend limitations and to break down barriers, the same way the walls of Jericho fell. These walls must come down!” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
The march continues the faith community’s long-running, multifaceted, nationwide mobilization to pass the DREAM Act. The House of Representatives recently passed the DREAM Act, following a flood of phone calls, letters and emails from constituents in the faith community. Faith leaders and students fanned across Capitol Hill after the prayer summit and Jericho March, meeting with numerous key Senate offices and bringing their urgent plea for action on the DREAM Act from their communities to their elected officials. Less than two weeks before Christmas, leaders called on the Senate to bring hope to thousands of children for this holiday.
“We’re praying for a Christmas miracle to give advent hope to a generation of young people who are ready to become our best citizens,” says Sojourners founder and CEO Rev. Jim Wallis. “The dream to go to college or a commitment to public service should not be illegal- even if you are the children of undocumented parents. For the Christian community, this is Advent, a season of hope and anticipation. We celebrate a hope fulfilled, but we are praying for a hope that has been deferred for far too long.”
“One of the tenets of evangelicalism is that we believe conversion is possible,” said Rev. Troy Jackson, senior pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, OH. “Our nation needs a conversion moment… we need our politicians to be people of love.”
Clergy from Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Maine brought stories from their communities to Capitol Hill, reminding Senators of the consequences of inaction on this issue, and the tremendous opportunity they have to act with moral conviction to keep America safe, strong, and economically robust.
Participants in the march also included over 100 DREAM students, who were brought to this country by their parents and have excelled at American high schools, but whose aspirations and goals are currently out of reach because of the brokenness of our immigration system. Currently, these young people face insurmountable barriers to education and employment, but the Senate has the opportunity to make the American dream attainable for them.
“It is faith that has kept us fighting. It is why I set out on a 4-month journey on foot, from Miami to Washington, DC. People and their churches opened their doors to us, loved us, embraced us,” said Gaby Pachecho, a DREAM student from Florida. “We saw the Ku Klux Klan and those who told us this was not our home. We still love them, hug them… we hope the love we have for God, our communities, our country, and our home touches their hearts.”
“These are not strangers. These young men and women who have grown up in our communities… They are making our country a better place now and for generations to come,” said Bishop Minerva CarcaÃ±o of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church in Phoenix, AZ. “Across faith traditions, children hold a very special place. Without DREAM, the well-being of children will be stunted… and undermined. If we fail to convince our political leaders to support this, we fail to be faithful guardians of the children God placed in our care. But we will not fail. We will not fail because God is with us.”
Other participating clergy and faith leaders included:
Bishop Jim Dorff, Southwest Texas Conference, United Methodist Church, San Antonio, TX
Rev. Jayne L Ruiz, First Presbyterian Church, New Orleans, LA
Rev. Arturo Chavez, Mexican American Catholic College, San Antonio, TX
Dr. Melissa Rogers, Wake Forest University Divinity School, Winston-Salem, NC
RubÃ©n Castilla Herrera, Ohio Action Circle, Columbus, OH
Rev. Russell Meyer, Florida Council of Churches, Tampa, FL
Rev. Fred Small, First Parish- Cambridge (Unitarian Universalist), Cambridge, MA
MarÃa Antonietta BerriozÃ¡bal, former city councilwoman, San Antonio,
Rev. Harry Knox, Resurrection Metropolitan Community, Houston, TX
Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, Rio Grande Conference, United Methodist Church, San Antonio, TX
Rev. Owen Ross, Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Church, Dallas, TX
Rev. Sergio Tristan, Kansas West Conference, United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS
Rev. Michael Mann, Northern Illinois Conference, United Methodist Church
RPastor Israel Ortiz, Iglesia Pentecostal El Sinai, Portland, ME
Rev. John Richardson, Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina, Wilson, NC
Rev. Jean O’Bresky, Sanbornton Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Sanbornton, NH
Rev. Dr. Jack Price, Crossroads Church, Kansas City, MO
Ahlam Jbara and Alaa Muhakkal, Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, Chicago, IL
The faith community stands alongside economic experts, military leaders, university presidents, and the majority of the American public in supporting compassionate, common-sense legislation that will help ensure America’s vibrant future and give thousands of talented young people the opportunity to pursue their dreams, rather than deporting them to countries they’ve never known as punishment for decisions in which they had no say.