Christians with a bent for social justice often point to the 25th chapter of Matthew as being particularly inspiring. In verses 34-45, Jesus says that, among other things, we serve God by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and visiting those in prison.
When economic times are harsh (particularly for minorities) and immigration reform has been cast aside, America’s immigrants certainly are treated like the “least of these.” Fortunately, as the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday, a new Illinois law will allow clergy more access to imprisoned immigrants at the door of deportation, shining “more light on prison conditions faced by that population” and allowing faithful visitors to act in the spirit of Matthew 25.
The Access to Religious Ministry Act “will ensure detained immigrants inside state and county jails housing those caught in federal raids the same access to clergy as those imprisoned for other crimes,” the article says. The Tribune also reports that, right now, clergy visits for jailed immigrants are “restricted to two hours or less per month” leaving clergy not only little time to minister to detainees, but also “less time to attend to complaints about mistreatment during incarceration.”
What’s doubly exciting about this bill is that it was initiated by area nuns who recognized this great need –a great example of faith in action. Hopefully, other states will follow suit and continue to affirm the right of every person to receive comfort and counsel.
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The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, in partnership with the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership, Faith in Public Life, America’s Voice Education Fund, and Dr. GastÃ³n Espinosa, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College and Claremont Graduate University sponsored a national survey of Latino Protestant registered voters to assess their views on immigration and the 2008 election. This growing voting bloc provided crucial support for George W. Bush in 2004 and was widely viewed as a key emerging constituency for the Republican Party in elections to come.
This survey finds that Latino Protestants have shifted their support to the Democratic presidential candidate by a wide margin in 2008 and immigration is a key factor in influencing their vote. However, Latino Protestants are as likely to associate negative rhetoric on immigration with both parties as they are with only Republicans — indicating that Democrats have not distinguished themselves as champions for immigration reform.
Latino Protestant Support for the Republican Ticket Nearly Cut in Half.
- Latino Protestant registered voters favor Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain by a 17-point margin (50.4 percent to 33.6 percent with 10.4 percent still undecided). This margin of support for Obama is slightly lower than his lead among the Latino population overall.
This is a dramatic shift from 2004 when George W. Bush soundly won the Latino Protestant vote. According to 2004 (i) post-election survey data, Bush won 63 percent of these voters, up from 32 percent in 2000(ii).
Latino Protestants view immigration as a faith issue.
- 76.8 percent say their religious beliefs are important in influencing their views on immigration (54.6 percent say very important). Only 19 percent say their religious beliefs are not important in influencing their views on the issue.
A candidate’s position on immigration is a key factor for Latino Protestants in determining their vote and more trust Democrats to deliver.
- 82.8 percent say a candidate’s position on immigration is important in determining their vote this year (54.6 percent say very important).
- Democrats receive more than twice the amount of trust to pass immigration reform that reflects the values of Latino Protestants (42 percent, compared to 20.2 percent for Republicans).
- 89.2 percent say immigration is important (65.6 percent very important) for the next Congress, 7.6 percent view it as a low priority or not a priority.
Immigration reform is a priority for Latino Protestants on par with abortion and far more important than gay marriage.
- Immigration Reform – 70.8 percent extremely or very important (23.6 percent extremely important)
- Abortion – 74.8 percent extremely or very important (34.8 percent extremely important)
- Gay Marriage – 55.8 percent extremely or very important (28.4 percent extremely important)
Latino Protestants associate negative rhetoric about immigrants with “both parties.â€
- 62.2 percent say they have heard public officials speak negatively about immigrants.
- 43.4 percent of those who have heard public officials speak negatively about immigrants associate this rhetoric with both parties.
- 40.5 percent associate it with only Republicans while only 7.7 percent associate it with only Democrats.
Latino Protestants favor the Democratic candidate when considering Democratic and Republican plans for immigration reform.
- 65.2% support the Democratic candidate’s plan for immigration reform (22.8% support the Republican candidate)
- 57.6% support “Candidate Aâ€ when given the same candidate positions without a party name associated with the position. (30.8% favor “Candidate Bâ€)
- However, fully 30.8% of Latino Protestant say they would leave their political party if the party does not find a more positive way to address immigration reform and welcome immigrants (42.8% say they would not leave their party.) This further indicates the volatility of this group of voters.
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Just as Colorado is a presidential battleground state, it is critical ground in the movement for immigrants’ rights. As the state’s immigrant population continues to burgeon and ideologues spew invective against them, the faith community is standing up for the rights and dignity of all people, including newcomers to the country.
To this end, leaders of We Believe Colorado are taking part in today’s We Are America march and rally for immigrants’ rights in Denver. Early reports indicate that 1,500 people of all backgrounds joined the march. It included prayers and remarks from We Believe’s interfaith leadership, and attracted significant community and media attention to their call for beloved community and the common good. Yet another example of faith groups across the country taking action on values issues. Doing so in the shadow of the convention is especially significant.
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Quite a week for immigration activists in the faith community. Religious groups across the country took action to affirm the dignity of immigrants and call for just and compassionate solutions from their government and fellow citizens.
Responding to the May raid at a kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa, marchers put feet to their faith in the name of justice for immigrant laborers. Not content to simply symbolize change, Jewish rabbis from several Midwestern states used the march to publicize plans making the moral treatment of immigrant workers part of new standards for kosher food certification.
We Believe Colorado stood with Denver city leaders to urge voters to say no to an initiative that would require police to conduct racial profiling against Latinos. Working together, they provided a blueprint for healthy church-state cooperation.
Catholic leaders gathered in the nation’s capital to appeal for sweeping changes in immigration policy. Comparing devastating raids to the havoc of a hurricane, they called the current approach what it is: unacceptable.
These leaders, like other people of faith, see the urgency of addressing this issue in an election year. From the NCR article:
“This is an important moment,â€ said Kevin Appleby, director of the U.S. bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Policy. “America could become more restrictive, belying our history as nation of immigrants.â€
Journalists and lawmakers are becoming increasingly aware of the faith community’s courageous efforts. In fact, as people of faith step out, opinion leaders are adding their voices to the call for a just immigration policy. Hopefully, candidates for national and local office will also take notice and follow and make humane treatment of immigrants a top priority.
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Throughout American history, immigrants facing economic hardship, exploitation and nativism alongside the opportunity for a better life than was available in their countries of origin have found solace and support in the faith community, and today is no different.
This week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services cosponsored “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice” to call for fairer, more humane immigration policy. Based on news reports, conference leaders are balancing an appropriately critical description of our current situation and calls for political solutions. Especially encouraging is Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony’s call to make immigration reform a top political issue in the campaign.
When families are broken up, people are being rounded up like cattle in and detained in inhuman conditions, and immigrants are getting locked up for months on end before being deported, we’re dealing with more than a law-and-order issue, we’re dealing with a moral one. It’s good to see the Catholic church continuing its tradition of engaging it.
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