The Common Good

Immigration Reform: Change Takes Courage and Faith

100304_090501-016-immigrationThe window is closing on comprehensive immigration reform. At least that's what the politicians in Washington are saying. They're afraid of more demagoguery. They're afraid of upcoming elections. They're afraid of the politics of fear. But I am more and more troubled by how little they seem concerned about the worsening plight of many of America's most vulnerable families -- about how families are being broken up by the U.S. government, forcibly separating children from their parents. And for the media, immigration reform is just another looming political conflict to report, more of the gamesmanship of Washington to cover.

As always, the real stories of real people get lost in the win/lose politics of the nation's capital. Yes, the nation is going through some tremendous challenges right now. And we all know that Congress is hesitant to tackle tough issues before mid-term elections. But while politicians can write off one more piece of legislation on a packed agenda, they won't be able to write off, or ignore, a movement rooted in our faith communities. If our political leaders won't make room for the "strangers" among us, we will -- because Jesus commands us to do so.

Significant social change does not begin with Congress, and it doesn't happen overnight; it usually takes a movement, and it always takes courage. Sojourners has been convening, educating, and mobilizing Christians nationwide through our Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign for the past three years, and we are proud to be in good company with the growing interfaith movement fighting for dignity and justice for immigrants.

On March 21, 2010, tens of thousands of supporters of immigration reform will join together in Washington, D.C. for the "March for America: Change Takes Courage." In the faith community, we have amended the tagline to read "Change Takes Courage and Faith" because courage truly does come from our faith.

Changes to our immigration system will simply not happen without both courage and faith. For many of us, faith is a catalyst to action that can solve the really big issues -- and this is one of the biggest ones we face now. People of faith will look beyond the political calculations and see this for the moral and family crisis it is. It will take people of faith to knock down the doors of Congress and bring the stories of immigrant friends, neighbors, and family members as evidence of the injustices that are experienced on a daily basis. Finally, we need faith in a God who is larger than we can imagine, the God who cries as we humans build border walls to separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters on the other side, the God of justice who isn't persuaded by the political timetables of Washington, D.C.

It's time to stop playing politics with something that should have been dealt with long ago. The situation will only get worse for both citizens and immigrants if we don't resolve it now. That's why Sojourners is launching Voices of Immigration, a new campaign aimed at highlighting stories of immigration in our country and exposing the flaws in the current system. As people who believe that everyone is made in the image of God, we want to restore the human element to the conversation around immigration reform, including subsequent legislative and policy decisions. Each day next week a new story will be highlighted on God's Politics with additional ones posted throughout March on CCIR's Web site.

It is our hope that bringing to light the human face of the social, political, and economic problems caused by the current system will demonstrate the urgent need for immigration reform. I hope these stories will inspire you to join us in fighting to fix a broken system that harms us all. We must boldly declare that it is morally wrong to keep families apart, and that it is morally right to fix the broken system so that immigrants are treated with respect and mercy. At this crucial turning point, we must take the call of our scriptures seriously and act prophetically for justice. If Washington fails to make room for the strangers in our midst, we need to make it clear to Washington that we will do it ourselves.

portrait-jim-wallisJim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, CEO of Sojourners and blogs at www.godspolitics.com.

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