As the faith community’s nationwide push for comprehensive immigration reform gains steam, religious leaders are working to set a civil tone in the debate. Illustrating the need for this, Campus Progress reported that the anti-immigrant group Numbers USA held a strategy conference call with leaders of Tea Party organizations to plot ways to thwart the March 21st March For America, which included some rather troubling rhetoric:
CALLER 1: I would like to speak out on something. I feel the new welfare queen in America today is women coming from Mexico with a bunch of babies. So I feel they’re all coming over here and having all these babies, they are the new welfare queen in America….
New people in America today with a lot of babies, ’cause they coming from Mexico having a bunch of babies. And our tax dollars is taking care of them babies, ’cause the mothers are illegal. So to me, we need to speak out about letting them know they’re the new welfare queens in America.
CALLER 2: That was well said brother!
MACDONALD [moderator, from Numbers USA]: We will make a note of that. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
CALLER 3: One piece of information would be, they aren’t babies, they’re dependents. Don’t use babies. It’s emotional to them. They have dependents. We have babies. [Emphasis added.]
This wasn’t just a couple of cranks blowing off steam. This was a strategy session by national anti-immigration organizers discussing how to effectively deceive the public and dehumanize immigrants. Spreading inflammatory misinformation and calling an immigrant’s children less fully human than a citizen’s is beyond distasteful – it is immoral. Hopefully immigration reform opponents don’t bring it into the public square.
As recentmediacoverage has shown, the faith community is mobilizing nationwide to urge leaders in Washington to act now to repair our broken immigration system. Just yesterday, almost 100 faith leaders marched ten miles from Ellis Island to a immigrant detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey to call attention to the plight of detainees and call for reform. And in Orlando, prominent clergy gathered to call for a more humane system that keeps families together, gaining tv news coverage that carried their message loud and clear. Have a look:
Over the coming days and weeks, more and more faith leaders across the country will continue lifting up the issue of immigration reform as an urgent moral and political priority. Hopefully our political leaders will hear them, and act to repair a system that tears families apart and keeps millions of people in the shadows.
Together, not Torn: Families Can’t Wait for Immigration Reform” got off to a strong start yesterday with a powerful telephone press conference with national leaders and Members of Congress. But the grassroots events that are part of this movement are also pretty inspiring.
Check out this footage from a local event in Grand Junction, CO yesterday. Faith leaders stood alongside business, political, and immigrant leaders to push for immigration reform that keeps our families together and protects the dignity of all workers.
Today, the faith community officially launched a massive new mobilization around immigration reform. The nationwide effort, “Together, not Torn: Families Can’t Wait for Immigration Reform,” includes delivering hundreds of thousands of pro-reform postcards from people of faith to Members of Congress and one hundred local events across the country, from Maine to Texas to Washington state.
Evangelical, mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders, along with Members of Congress, kicked off the new initiative this morning on a telephone press conference with journalists.
Check out the full press release here and an audio recording of the call here.
The testimony was moving, from National Association of Evangelicals’ Galen Carey’s heartwrenching story about the mother in Arizona whose immigration status bars her from seeking justice for her son’s death by a drunk driver, to Rev. Jen Kottler’s powerful invocation of Scripture, to Rabbi Abie Ingber’s impassioned remarks:
“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.”
Especially coming on the heels of the report from America’s Voice about the importance of immigration reform to politically critical Latino voters, we’re hoping that leaders on Capitol Hill are paying close attention to the growing call for reform this year. America’s families simply cannot wait.
The growth of the Latino electorate is going to be an important factor in an increasing number of congressional races across the country, this year and beyond. Moreover, how both parties handle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform will have a serious impact on Latino political behavior.
I hope our political leaders see how interconnected immigration reform and the economy are– by bringing 12 million immigrants out of the shadows, we can stabilize wages and increase tax revenue. Plus, it’s good for Congressional leaders to be reminded of a key voting bloc’s priorities.
Last week, Faith in Public Life, in partnership with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, co-sponsored a media training for faith leaders focused specifically on immigration reform. Through sitting in on that training and hearing firsthand from pastors in Brooklyn; Phoenix; Danville, VA; Minneapolis, and a host of other places, I realized how powerful the movement for immigration reform really is.
Fixing our broken immigration system makes sense, politically, economically, and morally. And as the pastors, rabbis, bishops, and organizational heads from across the country who were in DC last week reminded me, it’s people in these congregations whose lives will be shaped by the decisions our elected officials make. Whether or not they’re able to get paid a fair wage, be reunited with their families, integrate into their community… it’s all up to our political leaders. And we have a responsibility to keep reminding them to do the right thing, and to do it soon– families are hurting.