Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition Announces Campaign for Action on Immigration Reform

Today, my colleagues from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition and I held a press conference down at the Capitol officially announcing our Interfaith Platform on Humane Immigration Reform and our new campaign "Prayer, Renewal and Action on Immigration."

The press conference had an impressive list of speakers: Congressman Gutierrez, Congressman Honda, Sister Eileen Campbell (Sisters of Mercy), Bishop Minerva Carcaño (United Methodist Church), Rabbi David Ssaperstein (Reform Judaism), Jim Wallis (leading evangelical voice, President and CEO of Sojourners), and John Crestwell (Unitarian Universalist). And while I expected the conference to be good, I didn't expect to be quite as moved by what people said.

First, Congressman Gutierrez gave an impassioned speech about the need for comprehensive immigration reform, speaking specifically about family unity. He said, "Respecting family values should be fundmental to our nation's laws, but instead, across America families are torn apart by a system that values quotas over parents and their children or husbands or wives."

Then, Congressman Honda talked about the legacy of the Japanese internment camps and how our current system reflects a racial profiling that we had once sworn "never again" to.

The faith leaders then spoke about peoples of faith call to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor as ourself. Some highlights from the press release are:

"The often politicized and divisive debate around immigration calls for a deeper dialogue shaped by our best religious values of compassion, mercy, justice, and tolerance...The faith community has a clear responsibility in leading this conversation and helping those who are most vulnerable due to their immigration status."
~ Reverent Jim Wallis

"Our nation's soul is at risk. Families are being torn apart. Human rights are being denied. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed now. We recognize an urgent duty and challenge to stand in solidarity with immigrants, refugees, and trafficked persons seeking fullness of life, and to act as a voice for those whose needs get lost in the political debate."
~ Sister Eileen Campbell

"We read in the Torah more frequently than any other commandment that we should love the stranger as ourselves, love our neighbor as ourselves. Leviticus says, 'The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.' And who was the ger or the ger toshav, which we interpret as 'the stranger'? It was the resident alien, the person who came to Israel, lived in Israel, worked and participated in the life of Israel, but did not convert to Judaism. Is that not exactly the status of the immigrant in America today?"
~Rabbi David Saperstein

"As the suffering of immigrants and their families grows every day, we as people of faith long to bring healing to them and this land. As with people of all faiths, United Methodists stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters. Immigration reform that is just and humane is the only way to bring healing to our land."
~Bishop Minerva Cacaño

"When we move toward a day where our words and deeds embrace instead of erase we will witness Beloved Community. Immigration legislation must be humane and written in light of our common humanity. We are interconnected and interrelated."
~John Crestwell

Then finally, in response to a question asked about whether or not we believed we had the political clout to bring about immigration reform in the first year, Jim Wallis replied: "At the end of his campaign Obama said that now we must create the winds of change that will push him along. But winds of change are already blowing in the faith community with regards to immigration. We are clearing the way."

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