National faith leaders from Catholic, Protestant and Jewish traditions affirm President Obama’s call for comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship in 2013 and welcome Senate leadership on this critical issue. While clergy and lay leaders welcome both President Obama and the Senate’s proposals, they call for legislation that prioritizes family unity and creates a pathway to full citizenship, that is in no way contingent on enforcement measures, for the approximately 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.
Statements from prominent Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faith leaders are below:
“I applaud the President’s leadership in addressing the broken immigration system. For too long our communities have lived in fear as immigrant families have been torn apart through unnecessary harsh enforcement policies. The immigration problems we face as a nation are complex and difficult. President Obama’s clear commitment to provide leadership and full engagement in the legislative process toward immigration reform will be critical. United Methodists have long been active in working with other faith leaders from across the country in mobilizing thousands of people through hundreds of public witness actions and meetings with members of Congress and their staffs. Comprehensive immigration reform is a major concern for us. We will continue to advocate for reform that will provide a pathway to full citizenship for undocumented immigrants and reunify families who have been separated. I look forward to working closely with President Obama and Congress to enact effective, just and compassionate reform.”
- Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
“We find it hopeful that common sense immigration reform is finally getting the attention it has deserved for some time. We have to find a workable system for those wishing to come into our country, and a pathway to citizenship for the millions of hardworking immigrants who contribute so much to our country. They have earned their chance to be a part of our democracy.”
“A bipartisan group of Senators has spoken, no legislation can be called immigration reform without a road map to citizenship. Creating a just and compassionate immigration system that meets the needs of the 21st century won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy. For years the faith community has been calling for change, and we will be watching every step of the way to ensure that families are protected and the dignity of every one of God’s children is respected. We expect and demand nothing less. For us, this isn’t just a matter of politics; but one of faith and obedience to Jesus’ call in Matthew 25 for his followers to ‘welcome the stranger.’”
“While we await actual legislative language, HIAS is grateful for the Senators’ leadership and for their agreement on key issues: There must be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. – including undocumented students who would be covered by the DREAM Act – and shorter wait times for family members seeking to be reunited with their loved ones in the U.S. Comprehensive immigration reform is an opportunity to fix a broken system that adversely affects immigrants in the U.S., including refugees and asylum seekers. Immigration laws enacted in 1996 intended to crack down on undocumented migration also included all kinds of artificial, technical barriers that deny asylum to persecuted people who have already fled to the United States. Now is the time to fix the laws that have undermined America’s leadership in providing safe haven to the persecuted.”
” As an organization that serves refugees and all immigrants, CWS affirms that legislation based on this framework could have far-reaching positive impacts on the lives of those who, but for mere papers, are Americans in heart and contribution. Our immigrant brothers and sisters are an intrinsic part of our communities. We worship together, work together, build community together, our children learn together, and we pledge allegiance to the same flag together. We have a Biblical call to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor, and immigration reform will help us as a nation fulfill that call.”
“Immigrants come to the U.S. to work, and yet when they are kept in the shadows without a path to citizenship, they are easily exploited and undermine standards for all workers. Thus, it is morally and economically right to create a clear and quick path to citizenship for immigrants. We should “welcome the immigrant” now.”
“As one of many rabbis across the country committed to Ahavat Ger, (Loving the stranger), we commend the President and Senate leaders for their early-term commitment to grapple with our broken immigration system and policy. Courageous bipartisan steps affirming the humanity of millions of immigrants will show that the United States is the beacon of justice reflected by Emma Lazaruss words on the Statue of Liberty.”
“The president’s speech today represents a good starting place for Democrats and Republicans to come together to create a reformed immigration system that better serves families and the common good. LIRS and our broad national network of social ministry organizations, congregations, and church leaders are committed to working with Congress and the President to ensure that immigration reform will be just and protect vulnerable migrants.”
“By producing an initiative that accepts the premise of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the eight Senators recognize immigration as a key factor in bolstering America’s economic strength and democratic pluralism. The proposed reforms to the family and employment visa categories are also encouraging. Allowing immigrant families to more easily reunite with their loved ones promotes a strong social fabric in our communities. In addition, making it easier for high and low-skilled immigrant workers to come to this country will help to ensure that American businesses have the labor they need to compete in a global economy.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami joined the calls of fellow U.S. Catholic Bishops last week with this op-ed urging lawmakers to pass legislation that will create a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans:
“An earned path to citizenship for the undocumented, supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops and a strong majority of the American people, does not have to mean an “amnesty”. Reasonable requirements for permanent legal status and a chance at citizenship — such as paying a fine and any back taxes still owed or learning English — would in fact be gladly embraced by these immigrants who remain in illegal status not because they want to but because legal remedies are not available to them…
A path to citizenship for the undocumented should be the centerpiece of any immigration reform effort this year. A path to citizenship offers immigrants the opportunities and freedom that are the essential components of the American dream.”
Archbishop Wenski is not the only religious leader urging lawmakers to create a roadmap to citizenship. At PICO National Network’s “Separated Families Supper Table,” event, Rev. Richard Smith of San Francisco hosted a symbolic supper for families that have been torn apart by America’s broken immigration system, and prayed for passage of a common-sense immigration process that would reunite families:
“As people of faith the only solution to our harmful immigration policy that recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all human persons is full citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans who work in our communities, raise their children alongside ours and worship with us,” he noted.
The “Separated Families Supper Table” event, which lifted up the stories of families torn apart by our immigration system, launched the PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship, which “represents Americans of faith who believe that full citizenship rights for 11 million aspiring Americans is the only moral response to our broken patchwork of immigration laws that is consistent with the American values of freedom, fairness and family.”
And just this week, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition sponsored a National Faith Call-In Day with over 1,000 faith leaders from diverse backgrounds calling on their Senators “…to pass immigration reform in 2013 that prioritizes family unity and provides a pathway to full citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.”
In the wake of a national tragedy, religious leaders want for more gun regulation.
As the Obama administration prepares for a showdown with the NRA and the gun lobby, a broad range of faith leaders are voicing their support for stricter gun control laws. A recent survey published by the National Association of Evangelicals showed that 73 percent of evangelical leaders support an increase in gun regulation.
Core teachings in Scripture as well as the recent tragedies in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT, have united Christian leaders like never before in supporting common-sense gun control laws.
Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, the organization that conducted the survey said in a statement:
“Evangelicals are pro-life and deeply grieve when any weapons are used to take innocent lives… [We] want our laws to prevent the slaughter of children.”
The results of the survey come right after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement calling for action in response to Sandy Hook tragedy. Several Bishops along with President of the USCCB, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, have expressed their solidarity in calling on lawmakers to adequately address gun regulations.
A brief excerpt from their official statement is as follows:
“We offer particular words regarding the issue of the regulation of fire arms, the standards for the entertainment industry, and our service to those with mental health needs. As religious leaders, we are compelled to call on all Americans, especially elected leaders, to address these issues.
With regard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one’s loved ones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, ‘The International Arms Trade (2006),’ emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that “limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.”
Bill Lenz, Senior Pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church, a participant in the NAE survey states:
“Most of my experience with guns has been as a hunter in the great Wisconsin outdoors. I do not believe that guns are the heart of the problem, but there should be strong regulations on who can bear arms,” he said. “The easy access to guns has undoubtedly contributed to horrible tragedies. There are multiple ways to address our current problem, and greater gun regulations are one of them.”
The growing consensus among Christians that stricter gun laws are needed to make our communities safer indicates a shift in the way that they view the issue of gun control. In fact, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, general support for gun control has increased from 43% in October 2011 to 58% in December 2012.
Missouri Pastors urge elected officials to remember their moral obligation to defend vital safety-net programs for working poor families in Kansas City Star Op-Ed.
Frustrated with the slowing progress being made in the fiscal negotiations, Rev. Rayfield Burns and Pastor Jennifer Thomas of Missouri Faith Voices and Communities Creating Opportunity reminded lawmakers in an op-ed published today in the Kansas City Star that neglecting their duty to protect struggling Americans and seniors from an immoral “fiscal cliff” deal will leave many families economically vulnerable this holiday season.
With middle-class tax rates set to go up at the end of the year, Pastor Thomas and Rev. Burns are urging elected officials to remember the hundreds of thousands of Missouri children and families that depend on the Earned Income Tax Credit to meet their food and healthcare needs.
“At a time of staggering economic inequality, robust corporate profits, large deficits and historically low taxes on rich people, our leaders need to summon the courage to make powerful special interests pay their fair share. That starts with ending the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans and closing loopholes for big, profitable corporations.”
Both Rev. Burns and Pastor Thomas agree that the nation cannot afford politicians to compromise on their commitments to fund Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. They point out:
“Any fiscal cliff deal that undermines the health or economic security of American families and fails to require rich and powerful special interests to pay their fair share is immoral. Our elected representatives have a grave responsibility to uphold our values of fairness, justice and shared sacrifice.”
Their voices are just two of many in the faith community that are calling on Congress to stand firm; there is too much at stake for them to waver in their commitment to the poor and vulnerable. The futures of low-income families and children as well as the general well-being of seniors and the disabled depend on lawmakers closing the inequality gap and demanding that the top 2% pay their fair share.
Last week, faith leaders delivered petitions signed by 114,000 people to Alabama Pubic Television headquarters in Birmingham objecting to the station’s plan to air right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton’s propagandic documentary series about America’s founding.
The petitions were coordinated by Faithful America and Credo Action and delivered by local pastors Revs. Darryl Kiehl and Shannon Webster as well as Southern Poverty Law Center Senior Fellow Mark Potok.
Watch the delivery:
Barton is founder and president of WallBuilders, which describes itself as “an organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes.” But, as Potok described, Barton is not a historian; he’s “an extremist of the radical right,” who “says that gay people should be sent to prison [and] claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated American government at all levels.”
The Alabama Educational Television Commission’s campaign to get Barton’s highly inaccurate documentary on the air has begun to resemble an ideological purge — APT fired two executives after they refused to broadcast the series. The majority of the APT’s private-sector funding board resigned in protest.
“As a Christian and a pastor,” Rev. Kiehl said at delivery, “I have always trusted public television as a source of reliable information about history and culture. I’m disappointed that APT is even considering broadcasting David Barton’s slanted, misinformed history of America. Since our nation’s founding, Christians have fought for justice, equality and the common good, and Barton’s work appears to ignore that. His revisionist history is unworthy of public television.”