October 8, 2013

Faith Leaders Kick Off Day of Action for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Faith leaders seek a meeting at Speaker Boehner's office on Tuesday, October 8. Photo: ©2013 James Coates

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As Congress works to reach a deal that will return the U.S. government to service, top national faith leaders joined Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D- Calif.) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) in calling for bold steps in the House to pass immigration reform that keeps families together and creates a path to citizenship.

Immediately following the press conference, top national leaders and faith advocates fanned out across Capitol Hill to meet with legislators. Top faith leaders met with Leader Nancy Pelosi, while Speaker John Boehner, Leader Eric Cantor and Representative Paul Ryan rejected meetings with the high-level religious leaders, the CWS President the agency’s Board of Directors.

While the meetings with some House leadership were rejected, the religious leaders, immigrant activists and others still went to the members’ offices to meet and pray in the hopes of finding a way forward on immigration reform.

Rep. Denham said immigration reform is not a partisan issue. "This is an American issue we have got to fix. If we are going to contribute to the greatness of our country, immigration is part of that solution… It is an economic driver that will help us to solve our fiscal crisis… But it is also a moral issue. It is a personal issue for me because it not only affects my family, it affects all of our families.”

In Boehner, Cantor and Ryan’s offices, the advocates met with Congressional staff and individuals shared testimonies of how immigration reform had impacted their families. The faith leaders then closed the meeting in prayer.

“House Leaders must listen to the calls of our moral and faith leaders to act in a bipartisan manner to fix our country’s broken immigration system,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee. “Ultimately we need a fair and humane system that reflects our values, keeps our country safe, and lets immigrants aspire to become Americans so our culture and economy prosper.  It can be done if we are allowed to work together.”

“Today even in the midst of this shutdown, we bring our call for justice to Capitol Hill because the crisis of our families, our communities and congregations continues. Immigration reform simply cannot wait. The time for solutions is now,” said the Rev. John McCullough. “And when congress decides to end this shutdown our national leaders will need to prove that they can work together for the greater good of the nation and pass a just and humane immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship.”

Bishops and national heads of the American Baptist, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist traditions stressed the urgency for immigration reform.

“At the day of judgment will you be able to say you loved your neighbor as yourself?” the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori said, who is Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church. “The House of Representatives already has the necessary votes for reform. It simply needs the moral courage to bring it to a vote. We urge the leadership to act positively on immigration reform and to do it now.”

Rep. Denham said, “The efforts of the faith-based community have been instrumental in keeping immigration reform in the forefront of the national debate. The time for top-to-bottom reform is now.” He told the more than 200 faith leaders gathered, "Don't allow Congress to lose its focus on immigration."

Later in the day, the Clergy and participants joined tens of thousands of people for the Camino Americano rally and concert in Washington, D.C.

Today’s actions on Capitol Hill came as part of Church World Service’s Global Summit on Immigration Reform in Washington D.C., which brought together nearly 300 faith leaders, immigrants and refugees from 39 states representing more than 18 faith traditions and 37 organizations. The day’s action follows significant faith community participation in the National Day of Dignity and Respect October 5 at more than 130 marches and rallies across the country.

Founded in 1946, CWS is an international relief and development agency and 1 of 10 organizations that resettles refugees for the U.S. Department of State.

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More remarks from faith leaders

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church

“Migrants on our southern border still die in the desert heat coming to join family members who are already legal residents and citizens. They come hoping for just employment and a dignified life. Our immigration laws are profoundly broken and urgently need reform. We need dignified ways for workers to gain citizenship and share in the creative abundance of this nation they helped to build… We need a humane and proportionate system of immigration law enforcement instead of midnight raids that leave minor children untended and parents held incommunicado. “

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Resident Bishop of the United Methodist Church, Los Angeles Conference

“Even while the federal government is shutdown, one government activity that continues with full force is this: more than 1,100 of our immigrant brothers and sisters are being deported everyday including today. We will continue to work every single day until not one more family is separated. We will never cease raising our voices that God loves the immigrant among us.”

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of the United States and Canada

“People of faith stand in solidarity with immigrant communities because immigrants are not strangers -- they are our neighbors. We go to church together and school. We want the same things for our children. And so for forty days… more than 8,000 people of faith from across our country have committed to pray, to fast and to advocate for compassionate immigration reform. What we need now is a compassion surge in the hearts of Congress. The American people are already there. At this pivotal moment in the movement for immigration reform, the time has come to escalate our efforts, to expose the injustice, to engage the heart of our country.”

Rev. Peter Morales, President, The Unitarian Universalist Association

“It is true that our immigration laws are broken. They are evil. They are immoral.   They kill people and they break up families,” said Peter Morales. “We need to stand on the side of compassion, on the side of love, on the side of justice and demand that comprehensive immigration reform be passed. The American people want it changed and now is the time to do it.

Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA and President-Elect, National Council of Churches of Christ USA

“We pray for legislators whose intransigence is breaking the backs of the poor  and the immigrant. Raise up within their ranks, those with an uncommon heart for the common good with a vision to see past the next election and moral courage that isn’t subservient to the next poll. Fill their hearts with compassion and give them belly full of courage.”