Numbers USA, an organization whose goal is “lower immigration levels,” is encouraging their members to take action to stop passage of comprehensive immigration reform, including putting pressure on clergy who speak out in favor of reform. The action alert they sent Friday included the following:
On Tuesday, leaders from a majority of the country’s largest churches held a
meeting in Washington announcing their support for a mass illegal alien amnesty. It’s a sad fact that most of America’s religious leaders hold completely different political views than their members…
…go to your Action Board and send any faxes of protest you’ll find there to your religious leaders.
The premise of this call to action–that there is a divide between the pews and the pulpit on support for reform–is false. Recent nationwide polling shows that a broad range of people of faith overwhelmingly support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Public Religion Research Institute’s national poll released this spring demonstrates that Catholics, white evangelicals, and white mainline protestants all support comprehensive immigration reform— including an earned path to citizenship– by two-to-one margins over an enforcement-only policy. In fact, the poll showed that these three groups favor immigration reform even more than religiously unaffiliated Americans. (The full report is available here.)
Furthermore, PRRI’s research demonstrates that a majority of regular worship attendees approve of clergy speaking out on the issue immigration reform from the pulpit, and Â¾ of regular attendees approve of clergy speaking about the issue in the media and in other public forums such as community meetings.
Also, Numbers USA’s claim that the clergy who spoke out last week support “amnesty” is disingenuous and misleading. What faith leaders mean by comprehensive immigration reform is basically the opposite of “amnesty”–reform would require immigrants who are here illegally to pay fines and any back taxes they may owe, hold jobs, pass background checks, and study English in order to earn citizenship. “Amnesty” might be Numbers USA’s buzzword of choice, but it’s not a remotely accurate description of the policy.
Numbers USA’s false claims and loaded language may motivate their base to attack pastors for standing up for their principles, but we know that clergy leaders won’t back down in fighting to keep families together and fix a system that doesn’t protect our interests or our values as a nation.
A recent Time Magazine story about yet another anti-immigrant bill in Arizona caught my eye because it illustrates the deterioration of our immigration system as political leaders in Washington continue to postpone acting on comprehensive reform:
Buoyed by recent public opinion polls suggesting they’re on the right track with illegal immigration, Arizona Republicans will likely introduce legislation this fall that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona — and thus American citizens according to the U.S. Constitution — to parents who are not legal U.S. citizens. The law largely is the brainchild of state senator Russell Pearce, a Republican whose suburban district, Mesa, is considered the conservative bastion of the Phoenix political scene. He is a leading architect of the Arizona law that sparked outrage throughout the country: Senate Bill 1070, which allows law-enforcement officers to ask about someone’s immigration status during a traffic stop, detainment or arrest if reasonable suspicion exists — things like poor English skills, acting nervous or avoiding eye contact during a traffic stop.
But the likely new bill is for the kids. While SB1070 essentially requires of-age migrants to have the proper citizenship paperwork, the potential “anchor baby” bill blocks the next generation from ever being able to obtain it. The idea is to make the citizenship process so difficult that illegal immigrants pull up the anchor and leave.
This new anti-family legislation is consistent with the pattern of anti-immigrant bills cropping up in state capitols across the country — which will continue to happen until comprehensive immigration reform is passed at the federal level. As Congressional midterms approach, there’s a strong temptation to sweep controversial legislation such as immigration reform under the rug until the election is over. But these calculated delays exacerbate the need to address the issue, and leave immigrant families vulnerable to draconian measures across the country.
Since passage of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant bill in April, Arizonans worried about racial profiling and the spread of fear and anxiety in their communities have been keeping a constant vigil at the Arizona statehouse. Their presence and prayers are a powerful testament to their opposition to the law and a call for Arizona to act on its best values, not its basest instincts.
Now, as state legislatures around the country are considering legislation, people of faith are taking a stand and telling their legislators–”not in my state.” The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is spearheading a “rolling vigil”–”rolling” from region to region for the next 8 weeks, as people of faith pray together, standing in solidarity with the people of Arizona and reminding Congress that the urgent need for comprehensive reform isn’t letting up. In fact, Arizona’s draconian law and the possibility of similar legislation cropping up in other states only speaks to the increasing cost of federal inaction.
Given how important the faith voice has been to keeping immigration reform on the political agenda, it’s great to see how this “rolling vigil”–the Isaiah 58 Summer– is getting some positive television coverage in Philadelphia this week:
Hopefully this creative campaign– and the faith community’s constant reminder of why we need to stem the tide of extremist state legislation and pass federal immigration reform– will make a critical difference.
First lady Michelle Obama came face-to-face with the sometimes-uncomfortable repercussions of the nation’s immigration-enforcement policies Wednesday when a second-grader voiced her worries that her mother might be deported. [emphasis added]
Seriously. Having your foot fall asleep is uncomfortable; having your mom taken away is traumatic.
In addition to instituting racial profiling in Arizona’s streets and banning “ethnic studies” courses from public schools, the state legislature is now considering a bill that would further turn public schools into bastions of discrimination. Over at The Daily Beast, Dana Goldstein reports that
A third bill would require [schools] to record and report to the state the number of illegal immigrant children in their student population, along with an estimation of the costs associated with educating those children.
If passed, SB 1097 would compel teachers and administrators to determine the legal status of students and their families, almost certainly discouraging enrollment and parental participation at school. The bill’s sponsor is state Senator Russell Pearce, a longtime leader of Arizona’s anti-immigration right wing and the legislator who crafted the recent immigration enforcement law.
Here’s a not-at-all exhaustive list of reasons why this legislation is ill-conceived:
- It gets a big fat F on the Golden Rule test. It would deter undocumented and mixed-status families from sending their kids to school. Not only does this deny children the opportunities that we all want for our own families, but it pushes our most vulnerable neighbors deeper into the shadows, where they face exploitation and abuse.
- Teachers wear enough hats as it is. Requiring them to become de facto ICE Agents is foolish and unfair.
- Effective teaching requires trust. And the foundation of this trust would be seriously compromised if teachers are forced to grill kids about their immigration status on the first day of school.
- Young children may not even know their immigration status, casting doubt on whether this bill is even intended to measure costs of educating undocumented immigrants, as opposed to creating an anti-immigrant environment in schools.
From my brief tenure as a summer school teacher in Houston, I know that serving the needs of communities with large immigrant populations really is hard. But if we care about our neighbors, we should find ways to meet these challenges with just and practical solutions. Trying to run undocumented immigrants out of our schools shouldn’t be on the table.