Home for the Holidays lifts up Iowa immigration stories

November 24, 2009, 4:04 pm | Posted by

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.

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Home for the holidays

November 16, 2009, 12:47 pm | Posted by

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.

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Immigration back on the front burner

November 13, 2009, 3:33 pm | Posted by

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that the Obama administration will push for passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation early next year, rather than waiting until after the midterm elections. This comes as welcome news for the countless families that are separated by the current system, as well as faith leaders at the forefront of the movement for humane and just immigration policy.

In election years and off years alike, diverse religious organizations work continually for comprehensive immigration reform that protects workers, families and detainees who are exploited, imprisoned and deported by our unjust and inhumane system. A new campaign in this ongoing effort, which will roll out next week, aims to ensure that Congress and the White House keep the issue on the front burner over the holiday season. More on Monday!

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Quick hits

November 12, 2009, 3:50 pm | Posted by

A few thoughts coming off the midweek holiday:

- To my grandfather who served at the Battle of the Bulge and my father who served in the Air Force, happy belated Veterans’ Day. That goes for all current and former military personnel.

- To religious right fearmongers who claim Muslims should be discriminated against or prohibited from serving in the military in the wake of the Ft. Hood massacre, I’d like to direct your attention to some especially poignant remarks by Colin Powell on Meet the Press last year.

- Kudos to CNN for showing Lou Dobbs the door. It reflects well on the network and is a step forward for civil debate on immigration, which will be especially important in the coming months as congregations across the country mobilize to pass comprehensive reform.

- The LDS Church has endorsed a Salt Lake City ordinance that protects LGBT people from workplace and housing discrimination. What a surprising and uplifting development.

- Faith leaders worldwide have responded to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s solicitation of their leadership in the fight against climate change.

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Faith, “balance,” and the moral argument for immigration reform

October 19, 2009, 5:24 pm | Posted by

Today’s Arizona Republic had a somewhat skewed but nonetheless fascinating story about the faith community’s role in the immigration reform debate.

The story, which to its credit acknowledges that “immigration supporters have done a better job of attracting Christian and Jewish clergy,” “balances” a 2,500-person pro-reform rally and Congressional testimony by five religious leaders against a press conference by an anti-immigration think tank, featuring two religious speakers. It doesn’t mention the National Association of Evangelicals’ recent endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform or the decades-long advocacy of numerous denominations, but it devotes a five-paragraph section to the views of two advocates who may or may not have a religious constituency. In short, it barely scratches the surface of the faith community’s broad support for immigration reform, and makes a mountain out of a molehill on the other side.

This imbalance aside, though, it also described the religion dynamic in the immigration reform debate rather well:

The fact that anti-immigration advocates are jumping into the religious debate is evidence that they view their opponents’ biblical arguments as especially powerful, said Philip Williams, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida.

“To me, it’s an indication that they see the power of the moral argument as more persuasive than the legal argument,” said Williams, who has done research on the convergence of religion and politics in the Latino community.

Until now, immigration opponents have emphasized that undocumented immigrants are breaking the law and that rules need to be enforced to secure the borders.

“But those who are advocates of immigration reform have focused on the immigrants as human beings, and asked whether we should treat them as criminals or as brothers and sisters who deserve our compassion and understanding,” Williams said.

That’s a tough argument to counter.

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