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.
In addition to the recent nationwide public events and worship services for immigration I mentioned last week, 300 (!) clergy recently gathered in Houston to release a Houston Interfaith Statement on Humane Immigration Reform and launch a campaign for reform this year. Among their key policy priorities were family unity, detention reform, protection for workers, and creating a legalization process for the undocumented.
Several members of the coalition, including prominent Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran and Episcopal clergy, also penned an op-ed in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle that articulated their position, addressed common objections to reform, and grounded their beliefs in scripture. The size and diversity of the group befits such a large and diverse city as Houston, and shows the remarkable unifying power of immigration reform in the faith community.
One of the most tragic results of Haiti’s devastating earthquake was the separation of thousands of children from their families. Their plight, which has spurred many faith-based groups to action, reminded me of the children right here in the U.S. who also face the trauma of being separated from their parents by a broken immigration system, as well as the faith groups who work to meet their needs and change the system that harms them. Although immigration reform hasn’t gotten much attention lately, faith leaders and advocates are keeping up a nationwide effort to push Congress to pass needed fixes to our broken immigration system this year. Sojourners’ Allison Johnson posted at God’s Politics about this week’s “Day of Witness and Action on Immigration Reform” in Phoenix, which drew 130 Christian leaders from across the country not only to network with each other, but also to connect with local immigrant families affected by our broken system, and hear firsthand about their experiences and needs.
And the exciting event in Phoenix was just one of half a dozen events across the country this week at which faith leaders lifted a public witness for justice for immigrants — press conferences and prayer vigils were held in congregations and public venues in Denver; Santa Ana, Calif.; Chicago; Memphis; and Miami.
Immigration reform may not be at the top of the political agenda right now, but conventional wisdom in Washington doesn’t change the fact that our immigration system separates families, detains people indefinitely in inhumane conditions, exploits workers and keeps millions of people in the shadows across the country. It’ll take a broad-based, powerful nationwide effort for immigration reform to send a signal to Congress to act. Be looking for people of faith at the forefront of that movement.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is currently observing “National Migration Week” to lift up immigration reform as a moral issue and a political priority. On a press conference call yesterday that has generated numerousmediahitsacrossthecountry, several bishops and Catholic immigration reform advocates called for action in Washington to pass legislation this year. From the Miami Herald’s report on the call:
Stepping up the pressure on President Obama, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday urged the administration to make legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants a priority to enhance national security and improve the nation’s battered economy.
Though the Catholic Church has been in favor of immigration reform for years, the announcement of the campaign Wednesday marked the first major new effort by U.S. church leaders to demonstrate commitment to the issue which the White House has indicated may be the next major legislative priority after healthcare reform.
The campaign consists of a multitude of efforts, such as the launch of a new web site and action alerts, as well as a postcard campaign that will generate hundreds of thousands of messages to Congress. Catholic News Service also noted that
Elsewhere around the country, Catholic, interfaith and nonreligious groups small and large held immigration-related events. They ranged from press conferences, simple prayer services and educational events to a walk from Miami to Washington by four students hoping to bring attention to the situations they and others face.
Recent and ongoing issue campaigns in the faith community (such as the mobilization for healthcare reform) have included a variety of coordinated actions aimed at influencing key legislators across the country, effective media outreach that produces broadcast and print coverage, and strategic timing. The effort to enact comprehensive immigration reform is taking on these characteristics as well.
Fox & Friends, the morning Fox show, hosted a discussion on Sunday on a recent immigration poll. Joining the host were Kevin Appleby, director of the Office of Migration and Refugee Policy at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Roy Beck, executive director of anti-immigration group Numbers USA, and Fr. Jonathan Morris, a regular religion contributor on Fox.
It’s good to see Fox paying attention to the role of people of faith in the immigration debate. Unfortunately, the poll in question (sponsored by anti-immigration group Center for Immigration Studies and conducted by Zogby) is fraught with flaws, as Kevin eludes to in the segment.
Public Religion Research president Robby Jones has a helpful rundown of the problems with the poll, including the fact that the poll “is not based on a scientific random sample of Americans but rather on an opt-in online panel survey.” The wording of the survey questions is also quite slanted, and problematic, in several places.
Here’s Kevin’s take:
Immigration reform is a nuanced issue, and Americans certainly hold a variety of views on pathways to citizenship, border protection, family unity, and the host of other sub-issues tied up in immigration reform. But wouldn’t be all be benefited by Fox– and othermediaoutlets– paying a little more attention to polling methodology to be sure our public dialogue is informed by accurate and valid data?