February 19, 2013

Leaders urge courage to change broken & unjust immigration system

Local, national faith and grassroots activists urge statewide push for Ohio legislators to back just reform bill
Columbus Conference Group
State, national faith and grassroots activists met in Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 18, 2013, calling for statewide push on comprehenive immigration reform. Photo: CWS

‘Make equal justice under law more possible in America’

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- More than 115 community activists, clergy, lawyers, DREAMers and immigrants met in Columbus, Ohio, Monday (Feb. 18) in a one-day forum on immigration reform, urging Ohio Senators and Representatives to pass a fair and humane immigration reform bill this year.  

The conference, held at the Methodist Theological School in nearby Delaware, Ohio, was one in a series of local events planned across the country this week designed to grab the attention of key members of Congress now in recess and while they’re home.

Keynote speaker, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, general minister and president of the 1.6 million member-strong United Church of Christ, told the Ohio conference, “A pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people will make equal justice under law more possible in America.

“This is a perpetual goal, an ongoing process, and a continuous struggle,” he said. “When we have the courage to challenge this broken and unjust system, we are indeed following God’s call. We must get involved and act in a concerted bold effort so that common sense immigration reform can pass.”

Following Black’s address, in a panel discussion on the current state of immigration, the Rev. Noel Anderson of humanitarian agency Church World Service said, “Immigration reform is what we make of it. In the past it has been too heavily focused on security provisions. Now it’s time for the people to come together and advocate to make compassionate immigration reform a reality that prioritizes family unity and citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people already working and contributing in our communities.”

Regional immigrant advocacy voices on the panel represented the Central Ohio Immigrant Justice group, the DREAM Activist Network, Latino Policy Action Network and Capital University Law School, along with national and regional-level faith leaders from the Unitarian Universalist church and humanitarian agency Church World Service.

Local DREAM activist Maria Sanchez called for passage of an Ohio bill for equitable tuition at a state level for resident immigrant students. Also interviewed by Columbus NBC affiliate station WCMH-TV, Sanchez told the conference attendees, “After high school, I wanted to be able to go to college like many of my classmates. When I spoke to counselors and eventually my principal, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to attend college like my peers because I was undocumented.

“Many undocumented students give up before they graduate high school because they see no future for themselves without access to higher education,” she said.

“As community leaders and national advocates, we spent the afternoon planning and strategizing how we can be more effective in calling on Congress to pass fair, compassionate immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship for the millions of people without documentation forced to live in the shadows of our society,” said CWS’ Anderson.

Sponsors for the conference included Church World Service, Catholic Latino Ministry, Central Ohio Immigrant Justice, Cleveland Faith Immigration, Community Organizing Center (Columbus), Community Refugee Immigration Services, DREAM Activist Ohio, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Ohio Action Circle, Ohio Council of Churches, Unitarian Universalist Association–Ohio Meadville District, Ohio Action Circle Episcopal Church, Southern Ohio Diocese and Columbus Metropolitan Area.