The Common Good

Faith Leaders Call for Humane Treatment of Immigrant Workers and Families

Source: Sojourners
Date: July 10, 2008

July 10, 2008

Contact: Jason Gedeik, 202-745-4633, media@sojo.net

Faith Leaders Call for Humane Treatment of Immigrant Workers and Families

Recent Exploitation of Flood Cleanup Workers and Agriprocessors Raid in Iowa Highlight Desperate Need for Reform

Des Moines, IA - Today, Iowa Faith leaders in partnership with the coalition of Christians For Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR) spoke during a telephone press conference on the recent abuse suffered by immigrant workers in the state at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville and in flood recovery efforts in Eastern Iowa. The speakers included Rev. Catherine Quehl-Engel, Chaplain of Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Bishop Alan Scarfe, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, Bishop Steven L. Ullestad, Northeastern Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bishop Gregory Palmer, Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Julia Rendon of the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ and Patty Kupfer, Manager of Partnerships with America's Voice.

Amidst a chorus of faith leaders calling on Congress to investigate the Postville raid, the bishops and clergy denounced the troubling pattern of worker exploitation and disregard for immigrant families around the state. In particular, the exploitation of clean-up crews brought in to aid in recent flood recovery has highlighted the abuses as a wake-up call, revealing the urgent need for fair and humane immigration reform.

"Working towards immigration reform has become even more urgent following the troubling stories that have emerged from Iowa," said Patty Kupfer, Manager of Partnerships with Americas Voice. "Sadly, these two examples are not isolated incidents but part of the systematic mistreatment of immigrant workers across the country," she said.

Faith groups all over Iowa have stepped up their efforts to provide basic needs for workers who are being exploited. Many workers are hired by staffing agencies that often do not tell them where they are being assigned to work and provide little or no training, food and inadequate housing for the workers.

"I've yet to meet a Republican or Democrat who is not appalled when learning of the exploitation and lack of basic human decency extended to workers as they aid Iowa in its hour of need," said Rev. Catherine Quehl-Engel. "When 35 mostly African-Americans workers sat on a bus for 14 hours without food, or when a Hispanic gentleman from Miami works in toxic filth 12-14 hours daily then is told by management to sleep on or under the bus that brought them to Cedar Rapids, then Iowans must rise to bi-partisan moral, legislative leadership," she concluded.

"Our church is responding to God's call to feed the hungry, cloth the naked and visit the imprisoned," added Bishop Steven Ullestad. "Members of the faith communities are joining together to provide care for children with no food, babies in need of diapers and families in need of homes. The toll of the devastation on Postville has yet to be measured. The impact on the children will last a lifetime."

"With grace and love, I believe we are called to speak against acts that induce fear like the Postville Raid, and proposed anti-immigrant legislation that causes suffering, oppression, and denial of people's human decency and rights," commented Bishop Gregory Palmer. "We call upon all elected officials to prayerfully and humanely go through the difficult process of formulating an immigration policy that affirms the dignity and humanity of the migrants in our midst and ceases fear tactics like the raid in Postville until there is unified, comprehensive, and just reform."

Rev. Julia Rendon concluded, "Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament tell us to welcome the sojourner in our midst and to include those who are excluded. For us to tolerate the shabby treatment of flood relief workers, some of whom are immigrants, would violate our faith. We believe God cherishes every person, and as Christians we must stand up for those who lack the resources to defend themselves."

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About Christians For Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR):

CCIR represents a coalition of Christian organizations, churches, and leaders, from across the theological and political spectrum, united in support of comprehensive immigration reform. Despite our differences on other issues, we are working together to revive comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible, because we share a set of common moral and theological principles that compel us to love and care for the stranger among us.

For more information about CCIR please visit: www.sojo.net/immigration