It’s outrageous and heartbreaking that George Zimmerman was not held accountable for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin at point-blank range. This injustice affected Americans so deeply because it emblemized numerous intersecting pathologies of our society: a rampant culture of gun violence, inexcusable gun laws, deeply ingrained racism, and the devaluation of young black men’s lives.
At times like this it can be difficult to picture the day when tragedies like Trayvon’s killing no longer occur. But abolition and integration were once considered pipe dreams too, and the largely peaceful nationwide outpouring of grief after Zimmerman’s acquittal is a testament to faith leaders’ power to channel outrage into peaceful action, as Rev. William Barber II did at Moral Monday in North Carolina. While our hearts are troubled, our spirits must remain strong.
Catholic colleges call a path to citizenship ‘moral, urgent, practical’
A new group of influential leaders from the faith community weighed in on the immigration debate today. A press teleconference call this morning organized by Faith in Public Life unveiled a letter signed by 93 Catholic college presidents calling on Catholic members of the House of Representatives – including House Speaker John Boehner – to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a road to earned citizenship. The letter also ran as an ad in today’s print edition of Politico, as well as in targeted online ads. It said in part:
Our broken immigration system, which tears parents from children, traps aspiring Americans in the shadows and undermines the best values of this nation, is morally indefensible.
We hope that as you face intense political pressure from powerful interest groups, you will draw wisdom and moral courage from our shared faith tradition. Catholic teaching values the human dignity and worth of all immigrants, regardless of legal status. We remind you that no human being made in the image of God is illegal.
The letter is signed by nationally prominent Catholic universities such as Notre Dame, Georgetown and the Catholic University of America, as well as many colleges in districts represented by strategically important Republican lawmakers. As House Members weigh whether to support, obstruct or dilute reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship, the chorus of voices calling for a path to citizenship is growing louder.
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Prominent Catholic university presidents urged Catholics in the House of Representatives today to stop delaying and pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The high-profile push from the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown, The Catholic University of America and more than 90 other university leaders signals a major ratcheting up of Catholic pressure on Congress at a time when the number of Catholics on Capitol Hill has reached a historic high. The leaders of more than a third of the nation’s 244 Catholic colleges and universities were represented on the letter, which also ran as a full-page ad in Politico newspaper.
Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic, would be wise to tune out those Tea Party ideologues now backing him into a corner and meet with these university leaders who speak so persuasively about the moral and practical case for reform. While we’re at it, Rep. Paul Ryan could also benefit from some pressure given reports today that he is getting weak knees on a path to citizenship. In contrast, these university leaders are resolute:
Together we represent universities that educate more than 290,000 students. Leaders on Catholic campuses advocated for the DREAM Act, and we stand with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a road to earned citizenship.
Our broken immigration system, which tears parents from children, traps aspiring Americans in the shadows, and undermines the best values of this nation, is morally indefensible…As Catholics engaged in public service, you have a serious responsibility to consider the moral dimensions of policy decisions. Our immigration system is so deeply flawed, and in such urgent need of repair, that inaction is unacceptable.
Along with Catholic college presidents, the letter also includes signatories from 60 Catholic theologians and academics, as well as a retired U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican who worked in the first Bush administration and endorsed Mitt Romney for president.
The effort, spearheaded by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and Faith in Public Life, is part of a broader advocacy push by Catholics on immigration reform. Faith in Public Life will be working to bring Catholic university presidents to Capitol Hill in the fall to urge members to pass a path to citizenship. The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops will circulate the presidents’ letter as part of its robust advocacy efforts.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, touted the Catholic presidents’ push in a statement today:
I welcome the support of the Catholic presidents for immigration reform. They are a welcome voice in this debate, as they see the potential and talent in newly arriving immigrants. Immigrants, especially youth, are important for our nation’s future and competitiveness. Educators understand the importance of investing in immigrant youth so they can become tomorrow’s leaders.
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From June 8th to June 11th, NETWORK’s “Nuns on the Bus” will rally with Texas people of faith, labor leaders, and immigration activists at events across the lone star state to urge lawmakers, including Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, to forge ahead for immigration legislation that values America’s highest ideals and allows aspiring Americans the opportunity to achieve the American dream.
Catholic Sisters on the 6,500-mile tour, 15-state tour are urging lawmakers across the country to support legislation that provides a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans, promotes family unity, and protects the rights of all immigrant workers. The tour, which began in the shadow of Ellis Island last week, has drawn large and enthusiastic crowds of supporters in state after state on the route to Texas.
The tour is called “NETWORK Nuns on the Bus: A Drive for Faith, Family, and Citizenship.”
Featuring Catholic Sisters from around the country, and sponsored by NETWORK, the bus is stopping at historical landmarks, driving through the Southern states, plains of Texas and border towns throughout the Southwest. Sisters are rallying with community members at more than 50 faith-based agencies and local congressional offices to lift up the voices of both aspiring Americans and citizens who have been impacted by America’s broken immigration system. Catholic Sisters stand with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in calling for immigration reform that addresses the root causes of migration and provides a roadmap to citizenship for fellow neighbors, colleagues, and friends seeking protection from further senseless exploitation.
Click Here for Complete Itinerary!
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(Washington, DC) - In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, prominent faith leaders from across the country are reaffirming their commitment to pass comprehensive immigration reform and a roadmap to citizenship in 2013. While religious leaders agree that the proposal put forth by the Senate Gang of 8 is not perfect, the faith community stands united and committed to working through the upcoming legislative process.
The following quotes from clergy and social justice leaders detail the breadth of the faith community’s support for fixing America’s broken immigrations system:
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service:
“Church World Service has been calling for immigration reform that creates a roadmap to citizenship, prioritizes family unity, and improves the lives of refugees, and we believe that this legislation meets all of these goals. Immigration reform is not just the right thing to do to improve the lives of our immigrant community members; it also is the smart thing to do for our economy and the country as a whole. Specifically, we are pleased to see in the Senate bill that individuals who qualify for the pathway to citizenship could include their spouse and young children in their application, so that families can go through this process together. We are also supportive of the expedited process for DREAMers, and welcome provisions that would allow individuals who have Temporary Protect Status or Deferred Enforced Departure to apply for a green card and later, to apply for citizenship.”
Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women:
“National Council of Jewish Women commends the group of 8 United States Senators who have introduced a groundbreaking immigration bill after months of deliberation. Although it isn’t perfect, this legislation is an historic step toward addressing our nation’s broken immigration system. It is also an example of much-needed bipartisan cooperation in confronting our nation’s challenges, and for that we congratulate the senators and their staff. The bill is a good starting point for the dialogue necessary to overhaul our nation’s broken immigration system with the goal of achieving just, humane and comprehensive reform. We are pleased to see many of its provisions. Its landmark path to citizenship will enable the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US to emerge from the shadows of our society, and we applaud provisions that expedite citizenship for DREAMers and provide protections for temporary workers.”
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration:
“I welcome the introduction of legislation in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. bishops look forward to carefully examining the legislation and working with Congress to fashion a final bill that respects the basic human rights and dignity of newcomers to our land — migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations.”
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas:
“We call on the President and Congress to examine the root causes of immigration, particularly policies that contribute to poverty and violence and force families to flee their homes in search of economic and physical security. We will continue to support positive aspects of the bipartisan immigration bill, while encouraging a more expedited welcome of our immigrant sisters and brothers and sustaining advocacy against further militarization of the border.”
Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK:
“The need for commonsense immigration reform is urgent, and we are appalled that some in Congress would use the Boston Marathon tragedy as a pretext for slowing down – or even halting – current progress in reaching that goal. We were pleased last week when legislation was finally introduced, and we’ll do everything possible to move it along while pressing hard for the fairest bill possible. Our country deserves to have our broken system addressed now. It is shameful that it has taken this long to get this far.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
“We welcome this effort to reform our country’s broken immigration system. Reflecting our deeply held Jewish and American values, we are pleased that a path to citizenship, a plan for future flow of immigrants, protections for workers, exciting provisions for DREAMers, and a commitment to family reunification are cornerstones of this legislation. We look forward to working with Congress in the coming weeks and months to further strengthen the bill, and in particular to improve family reunification procedures to include siblings, adult children and spouses of all genders, to ensure crucial social services for immigrants, and to guarantee a feasible and fair pathway to citizenship. Our Jewish tradition is clear in its command to ‘welcome the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ As we recognize and appreciate those who have welcomed our own community throughout time, we realize and respect the role we must play in creating an open and welcoming society for immigrants today.”
Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners:
“The introduction of immigration reform legislation is a prime example of forces outside Washington working to influence good decisions — forces like businesses, law enforcement, and faith groups such as the Evangelical Immigration Table. Now, the fate of 11 million undocumented people faces an intense battle, with millions of dollars about to be spent to defeat immigration reform by appealing to fear and anger. But with the continued involvement of the faith community and other voices for sensible reform, I believe the common good will ultimately triumph over these special interests.”
Kim Bobo, Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice:
“Our elected officials have a great opportunity – and responsibility – to overhaul a broken system that tears families apart and leaves workers vulnerable to abuse. Passing comprehensive immigration reform and creating a path to citizenship is clearly the way to ‘welcome the immigrant’ and ‘love our neighbor.’ It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s an important first step, and we will continue to push for stronger worker protections. Now is the time for all of us to put our faith into action, our feet to the street, and advocate policies that reflect our values of compassion and justice.”
Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society:
“We are thrilled that this legislation was introduced and especially pleased that there are several humanitarian fixes for refugees and asylum seekers in this new legislation, which offers a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, modernizes the immigration system, strengthens our economy, protects families, treats American and immigrant workers fairly, and begins to address the broken refugee and asylum systems. While the bill may not be perfect, it is a comprehensive and common sense approach to immigration reform.”
Naeem Baig, President, Islamic Circle of North America:
“As Americans, we proudly call our country as ‘the land of the free and home of the brave.’ I wish our immigration policy should be reflective of that statement. This is the land where immigrants migrated to avoid persecution and injustice and in search of a better future for themselves and their children. Ironically, today the children of those immigrants do not wish to offer the same to the new immigrants. The people who are here in America seeking legal status include many who have come to this land hoping for religious freedom and peace and justice for themselves and their children. They have come here with a burning desire to use their talents and energies for the sake of a better future. So, let’s make this land a ‘land for the free and a home for the brave.’”
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A):
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a growing and diverse immigrant membership and many of our congregations see first-hand how effective integration programs can contribute to the success of our new neighbors and ease their transition. So we’re particularly excited about the parts of the new reform legislation that focuses on the integration of new immigrants. God continues to send and call people to new lands and when we welcome and support those responding to this call on their lives, our whole community is blessed.”
Rabbi Noam E. Marans, Director, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, American Jewish Committee:
“With potential refinement anticipated, the current comprehensive immigration reform legislation is supported by significant, broad and diverse American religious leadership as an expression of religious values: commitment to law and security; strengthening familial bonds; and enabling economic opportunity. AJC advocates for immigration reform, motivated by the experience of Jewish immigrant history and a commitment to social justice as a core Jewish principle. We have in immigration reform the opportunity to bring millions out of the shadows and enable them to be productive members of the American family.”
Fr. Thomas P. Greene, Secretary for Social and International Ministries, U.S. Jesuit Conference:
“We are encouraged by the bill and this first step toward comprehensive immigration reform. However, we need time to assess its provisions and ensure that the pathway to citizenship is indeed accessible to the millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in our midst. Certain provisions make the path seem narrow, steep and impassable for many immigrants.”
Linda Hartke, President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service:
“We’re thrilled that S.744 shows bipartisan agreement on fundamental improvements to America’s immigration process that LIRS has long advocated. The majority of Americans are calling for immigration reform that keeps families together and offers a roadmap to earned citizenship – because family unity is vital to our congregations and communities, and because this reform is smart for our economy and our country. It’s no coincidence that 40 Lutheran leaders from across the country were on Capitol Hill this week calling for passage of a bill that creates a fair and humane immigration system. Although we’re still analyzing S.744, we are glad that Senate leadership has taken heed of our call for action. Now we’re urging the House of Representatives to show bipartisan leadership like that in the Senate.”
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While political conventions and the daily twists and turns of the Presidential campaigns grab the headlines, faith leaders are working hard in communities nationwide to change the debate and advance the common good in substantive ways. The Nuns on the Bus Tour’s success calling media attention to the Ryan budget was a great example of this, and there are many others.
Last week members of Bend the Arc, an innovative new Jewish social justice group, kicked off their eight-state “If I Were a Rich Man” tour to confront Members of Congress from both parties who are personally wealthy and support tax breaks for the richest Americans that hamstring our ability to preserve an adequate safety net as we pay off the debt. This campaign not only highlights the faith community’s commitment to tax fairness as a moral issue, but also raises important questions about individual lawmakers’ biases in favor of the wealthy.
When President Obama made the long overdue decision this summer to defer prosecution of young undocumented immigrants who qualify for the DREAM Act, faith leaders rejoiced. But the pronouncement alone didn’t bring relief to those trapped by our broken system. In order to qualify for the chance to stay, they must complete a complex application process. Religious groups are stepping up to help young people navigate these difficult waters. Churches are hosting legal clinics for thousands who want to contribute to our nation’s future and are in violation of immigration law through no fault of their own, and faith-based immigration reform advocates are providing hands-on assistance. (On a side note, take a look at these inspiring images of thousands of people lining up to apply to stay in America.)
Grassroots faith leaders are also mobilizing to affect crucial state-level debates. In Missouri, a religious coalition is fighting for economic fairness and justice by working to pass ballot initiatives raising the minimum wage and capping the interest rates predatory payday lenders can charge. Next month Catholic sisters will conduct a statewide Nuns on the Bus tour to call attention to the Ryan budget’s devastating effects on communities across Missouri.
I’m proud of the impact the faith community is making this year. From shaping national media narratives on the economy and taxes to helping immigrants take advantage of important new opportunities to come out of the shadows, we’re demonstrating for all to see that religion is a powerful force for justice.
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