Last week, 150 people gathered in Durham, North Carolina, for Ruth’s Journey: Building Communi-TEA, a one-of-a-kind interfaith tea and dialogue where local women of remarkably diverse backgrounds discussed the impact of immigration on women and their families. The Old Testament story of Ruth cuts across many faith traditions, and serves as a powerful model for us today. She was a sojourner, a migrant worker, a teacher, and a mother.
Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple, Bishop Suffragan-Elect of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina started the event, reminding us that we were all once immigrants and that all women have a story to tell. The program was moderated by Renee Chou, reporter / anchor for WRAL-TV, who shared her own family’s immigration story. From there, numerous women from the community shared their experiences as immigrants who have realized the American dream, refugees who have overcome terrifying obstacles, and community leaders who serve and work with these newcomers to our nation.
I was most inspired by Vimala, a remarkably strong leader who emigrated from India several decades ago, escaped an abusive marriage, but was then barred by our immigration system from working, pursuing an education or becoming a citizen. Incredibly, she now owns her own successful business. And she eagerly awaits immigration reform.
Ultimately, these women reminded us of the moral and human dimension of immigration reform. They called on Senator Kay Hagan, who sent a staffer to the event, for a plan that prioritizes family unity, improves the lives of refugees, and creates a roadmap to citizenship.
The event was sponsored by Faith in Public Life, Church World Service , NC Council of Churches, The NAACP, The United Methodist Church, Church Women United, NC Immigrants Rights Project, The Sisters of Mercy, One World Market, Mom Africa Designs, and Respite.
See below for videos of the Ruth’s Journey event:
add a comment »
(Washington, DC) - In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, prominent faith leaders from across the country are reaffirming their commitment to pass comprehensive immigration reform and a roadmap to citizenship in 2013. While religious leaders agree that the proposal put forth by the Senate Gang of 8 is not perfect, the faith community stands united and committed to working through the upcoming legislative process.
The following quotes from clergy and social justice leaders detail the breadth of the faith community’s support for fixing America’s broken immigrations system:
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service:
“Church World Service has been calling for immigration reform that creates a roadmap to citizenship, prioritizes family unity, and improves the lives of refugees, and we believe that this legislation meets all of these goals. Immigration reform is not just the right thing to do to improve the lives of our immigrant community members; it also is the smart thing to do for our economy and the country as a whole. Specifically, we are pleased to see in the Senate bill that individuals who qualify for the pathway to citizenship could include their spouse and young children in their application, so that families can go through this process together. We are also supportive of the expedited process for DREAMers, and welcome provisions that would allow individuals who have Temporary Protect Status or Deferred Enforced Departure to apply for a green card and later, to apply for citizenship.”
Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women:
“National Council of Jewish Women commends the group of 8 United States Senators who have introduced a groundbreaking immigration bill after months of deliberation. Although it isn’t perfect, this legislation is an historic step toward addressing our nation’s broken immigration system. It is also an example of much-needed bipartisan cooperation in confronting our nation’s challenges, and for that we congratulate the senators and their staff. The bill is a good starting point for the dialogue necessary to overhaul our nation’s broken immigration system with the goal of achieving just, humane and comprehensive reform. We are pleased to see many of its provisions. Its landmark path to citizenship will enable the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US to emerge from the shadows of our society, and we applaud provisions that expedite citizenship for DREAMers and provide protections for temporary workers.”
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration:
“I welcome the introduction of legislation in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. bishops look forward to carefully examining the legislation and working with Congress to fashion a final bill that respects the basic human rights and dignity of newcomers to our land — migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations.”
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:
“We call on the President and Congress to examine the root causes of immigration, particularly policies that contribute to poverty and violence and force families to flee their homes in search of economic and physical security. We will continue to support positive aspects of the bipartisan immigration bill, while encouraging a more expedited welcome of our immigrant sisters and brothers and sustaining advocacy against further militarization of the border.”
Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK:
“The need for commonsense immigration reform is urgent, and we are appalled that some in Congress would use the Boston Marathon tragedy as a pretext for slowing down – or even halting – current progress in reaching that goal. We were pleased last week when legislation was finally introduced, and we’ll do everything possible to move it along while pressing hard for the fairest bill possible. Our country deserves to have our broken system addressed now. It is shameful that it has taken this long to get this far.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
“We welcome this effort to reform our country’s broken immigration system. Reflecting our deeply held Jewish and American values, we are pleased that a path to citizenship, a plan for future flow of immigrants, protections for workers, exciting provisions for DREAMers, and a commitment to family reunification are cornerstones of this legislation. We look forward to working with Congress in the coming weeks and months to further strengthen the bill, and in particular to improve family reunification procedures to include siblings, adult children and spouses of all genders, to ensure crucial social services for immigrants, and to guarantee a feasible and fair pathway to citizenship. Our Jewish tradition is clear in its command to ‘welcome the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ As we recognize and appreciate those who have welcomed our own community throughout time, we realize and respect the role we must play in creating an open and welcoming society for immigrants today.”
Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners:
“The introduction of immigration reform legislation is a prime example of forces outside Washington working to influence good decisions — forces like businesses, law enforcement, and faith groups such as the Evangelical Immigration Table. Now, the fate of 11 million undocumented people faces an intense battle, with millions of dollars about to be spent to defeat immigration reform by appealing to fear and anger. But with the continued involvement of the faith community and other voices for sensible reform, I believe the common good will ultimately triumph over these special interests.”
Kim Bobo, Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice:
“Our elected officials have a great opportunity – and responsibility – to overhaul a broken system that tears families apart and leaves workers vulnerable to abuse. Passing comprehensive immigration reform and creating a path to citizenship is clearly the way to ‘welcome the immigrant’ and ‘love our neighbor.’ It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s an important first step, and we will continue to push for stronger worker protections. Now is the time for all of us to put our faith into action, our feet to the street, and advocate policies that reflect our values of compassion and justice.”
Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society:
“We are thrilled that this legislation was introduced and especially pleased that there are several humanitarian fixes for refugees and asylum seekers in this new legislation, which offers a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, modernizes the immigration system, strengthens our economy, protects families, treats American and immigrant workers fairly, and begins to address the broken refugee and asylum systems. While the bill may not be perfect, it is a comprehensive and common sense approach to immigration reform.”
Naeem Baig, President, Islamic Circle of North America:
“As Americans, we proudly call our country as ‘the land of the free and home of the brave.’ I wish our immigration policy should be reflective of that statement. This is the land where immigrants migrated to avoid persecution and injustice and in search of a better future for themselves and their children. Ironically, today the children of those immigrants do not wish to offer the same to the new immigrants. The people who are here in America seeking legal status include many who have come to this land hoping for religious freedom and peace and justice for themselves and their children. They have come here with a burning desire to use their talents and energies for the sake of a better future. So, let’s make this land a ‘land for the free and a home for the brave.’”
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A):
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a growing and diverse immigrant membership and many of our congregations see first-hand how effective integration programs can contribute to the success of our new neighbors and ease their transition. So we’re particularly excited about the parts of the new reform legislation that focuses on the integration of new immigrants. God continues to send and call people to new lands and when we welcome and support those responding to this call on their lives, our whole community is blessed.”
Rabbi Noam E. Marans, Director, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, American Jewish Committee:
“With potential refinement anticipated, the current comprehensive immigration reform legislation is supported by significant, broad and diverse American religious leadership as an expression of religious values: commitment to law and security; strengthening familial bonds; and enabling economic opportunity. AJC advocates for immigration reform, motivated by the experience of Jewish immigrant history and a commitment to social justice as a core Jewish principle. We have in immigration reform the opportunity to bring millions out of the shadows and enable them to be productive members of the American family.”
Fr. Thomas P. Greene, Secretary for Social and International Ministries, U.S. Jesuit Conference:
“We are encouraged by the bill and this first step toward comprehensive immigration reform. However, we need time to assess its provisions and ensure that the pathway to citizenship is indeed accessible to the millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in our midst. Certain provisions make the path seem narrow, steep and impassable for many immigrants.”
Linda Hartke, President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service:
“We’re thrilled that S.744 shows bipartisan agreement on fundamental improvements to America’s immigration process that LIRS has long advocated. The majority of Americans are calling for immigration reform that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned citizenship – because family unity is vital to our congregations and communities, and because this reform is smart for our economy and our country. It’s no coincidence that 40 Lutheran leaders from across the country were on Capitol Hill this week calling for passage of a bill that creates a fair and humane immigration system. Although we’re still analyzing S.744, we are glad that Senate leadership has taken heed of our call for action. Now we’re urging the House of Representatives to show bipartisan leadership like that in the Senate.”
add a comment »
National faith leaders from Catholic, Protestant and Jewish traditions affirm President Obama’s call for comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship in 2013 and welcome Senate leadership on this critical issue. While clergy and lay leaders welcome both President Obama and the Senate’s proposals, they call for legislation that prioritizes family unity and creates a pathway to full citizenship, that is in no way contingent on enforcement measures, for the approximately 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.
Statements from prominent Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faith leaders are below:
- Minerva Garza Carcaño, Bishop, Los Angeles Conference, United Methodist Church
“I applaud the President’s leadership in addressing the broken immigration system. For too long our communities have lived in fear as immigrant families have been torn apart through unnecessary harsh enforcement policies. The immigration problems we face as a nation are complex and difficult. President Obama’s clear commitment to provide leadership and full engagement in the legislative process toward immigration reform will be critical. United Methodists have long been active in working with other faith leaders from across the country in mobilizing thousands of people through hundreds of public witness actions and meetings with members of Congress and their staffs. Comprehensive immigration reform is a major concern for us. We will continue to advocate for reform that will provide a pathway to full citizenship for undocumented immigrants and reunify families who have been separated. I look forward to working closely with President Obama and Congress to enact effective, just and compassionate reform.”
- Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
“We find it hopeful that common sense immigration reform is finally getting the attention it has deserved for some time. We have to find a workable system for those wishing to come into our country, and a pathway to citizenship for the millions of hardworking immigrants who contribute so much to our country. They have earned their chance to be a part of our democracy.”
- Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners
“A bipartisan group of Senators has spoken, no legislation can be called immigration reform without a road map to citizenship. Creating a just and compassionate immigration system that meets the needs of the 21st century won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy. For years the faith community has been calling for change, and we will be watching every step of the way to ensure that families are protected and the dignity of every one of God’s children is respected. We expect and demand nothing less. For us, this isn’t just a matter of politics; but one of faith and obedience to Jesus’ call in Matthew 25 for his followers to ‘welcome the stranger.’”
- Mark Hetfield, President and CEO (Interim), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
“While we await actual legislative language, HIAS is grateful for the Senators’ leadership and for their agreement on key issues: There must be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. – including undocumented students who would be covered by the DREAM Act – and shorter wait times for family members seeking to be reunited with their loved ones in the U.S. Comprehensive immigration reform is an opportunity to fix a broken system that adversely affects immigrants in the U.S., including refugees and asylum seekers. Immigration laws enacted in 1996 intended to crack down on undocumented migration also included all kinds of artificial, technical barriers that deny asylum to persecuted people who have already fled to the United States. Now is the time to fix the laws that have undermined America’s leadership in providing safe haven to the persecuted.”
- John McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service
” As an organization that serves refugees and all immigrants, CWS affirms that legislation based on this framework could have far-reaching positive impacts on the lives of those who, but for mere papers, are Americans in heart and contribution. Our immigrant brothers and sisters are an intrinsic part of our communities. We worship together, work together, build community together, our children learn together, and we pledge allegiance to the same flag together. We have a Biblical call to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor, and immigration reform will help us as a nation fulfill that call.”
- Kim Bobo, Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice
“Immigrants come to the U.S. to work, and yet when they are kept in the shadows without a path to citizenship, they are easily exploited and undermine standards for all workers. Thus, it is morally and economically right to create a clear and quick path to citizenship for immigrants. We should “welcome the immigrant” now.”
- Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice – Los Angeles, CA
“As one of many rabbis across the country committed to Ahavat Ger, (Loving the stranger), we commend the President and Senate leaders for their early-term commitment to grapple with our broken immigration system and policy. Courageous bipartisan steps affirming the humanity of millions of immigrants will show that the United States is the beacon of justice reflected by Emma Lazaruss words on the Statue of Liberty.”
- Rev. J. Bart Day, Executive Director of National Mission, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
“The president’s speech today represents a good starting place for Democrats and Republicans to come together to create a reformed immigration system that better serves families and the common good. LIRS and our broad national network of social ministry organizations, congregations, and church leaders are committed to working with Congress and the President to ensure that immigration reform will be just and protect vulnerable migrants.”
- Rabbi Noam Marans, Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, American Jewish Committee
“By producing an initiative that accepts the premise of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the eight Senators recognize immigration as a key factor in bolstering America’s economic strength and democratic pluralism. The proposed reforms to the family and employment visa categories are also encouraging. Allowing immigrant families to more easily reunite with their loved ones promotes a strong social fabric in our communities. In addition, making it easier for high and low-skilled immigrant workers to come to this country will help to ensure that American businesses have the labor they need to compete in a global economy.”
add a comment »
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami joined the calls of fellow U.S. Catholic Bishops last week with this op-ed urging lawmakers to pass legislation that will create a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans:
“An earned path to citizenship for the undocumented, supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops and a strong majority of the American people, does not have to mean an “amnesty”. Reasonable requirements for permanent legal status and a chance at citizenship — such as paying a fine and any back taxes still owed or learning English — would in fact be gladly embraced by these immigrants who remain in illegal status not because they want to but because legal remedies are not available to them…
A path to citizenship for the undocumented should be the centerpiece of any immigration reform effort this year. A path to citizenship offers immigrants the opportunities and freedom that are the essential components of the American dream.”
Archbishop Wenski is not the only religious leader urging lawmakers to create a roadmap to citizenship. At PICO National Network’s “Separated Families Supper Table,” event, Rev. Richard Smith of San Francisco hosted a symbolic supper for families that have been torn apart by America’s broken immigration system, and prayed for passage of a common-sense immigration process that would reunite families:
“As people of faith the only solution to our harmful immigration policy that recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all human persons is full citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans who work in our communities, raise their children alongside ours and worship with us,” he noted.
The “Separated Families Supper Table” event, which lifted up the stories of families torn apart by our immigration system, launched the PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship, which “represents Americans of faith who believe that full citizenship rights for 11 million aspiring Americans is the only moral response to our broken patchwork of immigration laws that is consistent with the American values of freedom, fairness and family.”
And just this week, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition sponsored a National Faith Call-In Day with over 1,000 faith leaders from diverse backgrounds calling on their Senators “…to pass immigration reform in 2013 that prioritizes family unity and provides a pathway to full citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.”
add a comment »
While political conventions and the daily twists and turns of the Presidential campaigns grab the headlines, faith leaders are working hard in communities nationwide to change the debate and advance the common good in substantive ways. The Nuns on the Bus Tour’s success calling media attention to the Ryan budget was a great example of this, and there are many others.
Last week members of Bend the Arc, an innovative new Jewish social justice group, kicked off their eight-state “If I Were a Rich Man” tour to confront Members of Congress from both parties who are personally wealthy and support tax breaks for the richest Americans that hamstring our ability to preserve an adequate safety net as we pay off the debt. This campaign not only highlights the faith community’s commitment to tax fairness as a moral issue, but also raises important questions about individual lawmakers’ biases in favor of the wealthy.
When President Obama made the long overdue decision this summer to defer prosecution of young undocumented immigrants who qualify for the DREAM Act, faith leaders rejoiced. But the pronouncement alone didn’t bring relief to those trapped by our broken system. In order to qualify for the chance to stay, they must complete a complex application process. Religious groups are stepping up to help young people navigate these difficult waters. Churches are hosting legal clinics for thousands who want to contribute to our nation’s future and are in violation of immigration law through no fault of their own, and faith-based immigration reform advocates are providing hands-on assistance. (On a side note, take a look at these inspiring images of thousands of people lining up to apply to stay in America.)
Grassroots faith leaders are also mobilizing to affect crucial state-level debates. In Missouri, a religious coalition is fighting for economic fairness and justice by working to pass ballot initiatives raising the minimum wage and capping the interest rates predatory payday lenders can charge. Next month Catholic sisters will conduct a statewide Nuns on the Bus tour to call attention to the Ryan budget’s devastating effects on communities across Missouri.
I’m proud of the impact the faith community is making this year. From shaping national media narratives on the economy and taxes to helping immigrants take advantage of important new opportunities to come out of the shadows, we’re demonstrating for all to see that religion is a powerful force for justice.
add a comment »