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?
Following up on last week’s rollout of the “Home for the Holidays” nationwide campaign to support comprehensive immigration reform, a series of events across the country are lifting up the faith community’s commitment to pass just, humane policies that keeps families together rather than keeping them apart.
As Allison at Sojourners pointed out at God’s Politics today, the initial event in Decorah, Iowa, last weekend received solid news coverage, including a segment on the Iowa City NBC affiliate KWWL and an article in the local newspaper, which reported that
A group of about 100 people gathered in support of immigration reform Sunday afternoon at the high school in Decorah. Although there were not specific immigration reforms suggested as part of the event, the consensus was clear that current immigration policies and practices are seriously broken and in need of reform…
Local stories of immigration were shared, from that of a sixth generation Norwegian American (Marilyn Anderson) to that of Rosa Zamora, who tearfully told of her experience of separation from her children and husband during the Postville raid. Cheuang Kavan, a resident of Decorah since 1985 shared emotional stories of his family being North Vietnam and Laotian refugees…
Events like these can help turn the tide on difficult issues by showing the local consequences of national policies and demonstrating the grassroots will to change them. Through the holiday season and into next year, expect more stories like these.
Imagine for a moment that it’s Christmas Eve or the first night of Hanukkah. Your family is gathered for an evening of celebration and prayer, but where there ought to be joy there’s profound sorrow because Mom isn’t there. She’s been deported, and an impenetrably byzantine system has barred her from returning, even if she is legally cleared to do so. Not such a happy holiday.
With such situations — along with the general injustice of our broken immigration system — in mind, faith groups across the country today launched “Home for the Holidays,” a major escalation of their effort to press Congress to pass reform that keeps families together.
The mobilization is innovative and widespread. Tens of thousands of people of faith across the country will send holiday postcards to Congress urging passage of immigration reform that unites families rather than keeping them separated, and faith-based networks are mounting statewide call-in days to Congress in seven states (OH, PA, MN, AR, MO, SC and NC), and large scale events such as prayer services and town halls in AR, IA, OH, and TX.
The campaign is especially timely not only because of the holiday season’s poignant reminder of the importance of family togetherness, but also because the White House announced on Friday that it intends to push for comprehensive immigration reform legislation early next year. Here’s hoping Congress takes that cue, and that it hears the faith community’s message loud and clear.