Today more than 350 pastors and faith leaders from local communities in 36 states released an open letter calling on Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona legislature to reverse course from the discriminatory anti-immigrant bill they passed last month, which promotes racial profiling against Latinos. It states in part:
We cannot afford to wait for other states to enact such reckless legislation. The religious community must be heard and our message must be clear and united: this law is morally unacceptable and it is time that Congress moves forward with comprehensive immigration reform.
Meanwhile, national media star and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was on the campaign trail this weekend proclaiming “we’re all Arizonans now” and calling for other states to follow Arizona’s lead by passing similar laws that promote racial profiling. However, diverse faith leaders from real communities across Arizona and the nation have consistently spoken out against the law, and last week an emergency delegation of prominent Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Jewish clergy from Arizona met with Sen. McCain to call on him to oppose the Arizona law and resume his leadership in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.
Are they real Arizonans, in Palin’s estimation? Or does the multimedia star and former half-term governor of Alaska reserve authentic Arizonan-hood for supporters of discriminatory immigration laws?
A “media availability,” which is kind of like an impromptu press conference, can feel like a stampede — if it’s well-planned. (Ironic, huh?) One minute, there’s plenty of space as you move into position near where the spokespeople are set to appear, and in the blink of an eye, you’re getting physically jostled, shoved from your spot, and enveloped by a herd of cameramen and interviewers angling to get closest to the arriving speakers.
Our intrepid new team member Nick Sementelli braved these hazards yesterday on Capitol Hill, where he got footage of a media availability FPL arranged for an emergency delegation of Arizona faith leaders outside Sen. McCain’s office, following their face-to-face meeting with Sen. McCain. The delegation called on the Senator to oppose Arizona’s recently passed anti-immigrant law (S.B. 1070) and support comprehensive immigration reform. (Earlier in the day, the faith leaders meet with other members of Arizona’s congressional delegation, and later in the day, they met with high-level officials at the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and the White House.) Below is Nick’s footage, complete with captions:
In a story FPL helped generate, Jeanne Cummings reported in Politico yesterday that an “emergency delegation” of faith leaders is coming to Capitol Hill Thursday to persuade John McCain to support immediate action on comprehensive immigration reform – a policy he championed the last time Congress took it up in 2007. Bishop Minerva CarcaÃ±o of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, a member of the delegation and a leading public voice for immigration reform, told Jeanne:
I understand the politics of his race. But the bigger picture is the legacy he can leave. He understands the border, the needs for comprehensive immigration reform, and he understands how to make it happen.
In addition to meeting with Sen. McCain, the delegation will meet with the White House and several Representatives from Arizona to explain how Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law makes federal action on comprehensive immigration reform more urgent than ever. As prominent leaders with large constituencies and direct experience with their Arizona immigration crisis, these leaders – including protestant and Catholic bishops, a rabbi, a megachurch pastor and a statewide ecumenical leader — are compelling messengers with unique political sway. The full roster of the delegation is after the jump.
Bishop Gerald Frederick Kicanas, Tucson Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church
Bishop Minerva G. CarcaÃ±o, Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church
Rev. Monsignor Richard William O’Keefe, Episcopal Vicar, Yuma – La Paz Vicariate Immaculate Conception Parish
Rev. Dr. Gary D. Kinnaman, Pastor at Large, Phoenix-area City of Grace Church, and Chairman, AZ Governor’s Council on Faith and Community Initiatives, 2008
Rev. Jan Olav Flaaten, Executive Director, Arizona Ecumenical Council
Rabbi John Andrew Linder, Temple Solel, Scottsdale, Arizona
Joseph David Rubio, Lead Organizer for Arizona, Industrial Areas Foundation
Normally we’re pretty happy when the faith community’s work on important issues like immigration reform get noticed in the press (like this great piece from TIME).
However, on occasion the faith communities advocacy attracts attention from some, er, odd quarters.
Take this piece from the hilariously named “Accuracy in Media.”
They’re none too pleased with faith groups, particularly the Catholic church, advocating for comprehensive immigration reform:
Russell is honest about the motivation behind these efforts, noting that the Catholic Bishops and their agencies, some of which get government money to provide services to illegal aliens, “benefit from immigration by increasing the number of Catholics in the United States.”
Yeah, because there is so much money in providing immigrant services, especially for those without papers. Why didn’t we think of this earlier?
As people of faith in Arizona and across this country, we cannot allow the further destruction of the hope and conviction of… young persons and their families. They are our brothers and sisters; and they hold that hope and conviction that justice does have the last word. Our congregations in Arizona are working hard to stand with immigrant families, assuring them of their rights, welcoming them with hospitality, standing against this horrendous new law in Arizona, and continuing to demand comprehensive immigration reform in this country.
– Bishop Minerva CarcaÃ±o, of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Thousands of people across the country will stand in solidarity with the people of Arizona and call for immigration reform this weekend, including thousands of United Methodist Women who Bishop CarcaÃ±o will lead in a massive rally and prayer vigil in St. Louis on Saturday.