As the holidays draw near, bright lights decorate the streets of the District of Columbia, carols are sung, cookies are baked, and stores fill up with anxious shoppers hoping to find the perfect gift. All this excitement is driven by the magic of Christmas and, more importantly, the anticipation of traveling home to be reunited with family members and celebrate the birth of the Son of God.
However, this perfect Christmas picture is distorted as I remember that many families will not be reunited this Christmas. Hard-working, honest people of faith are left to celebrate in fear and isolation because of our immigration policies.
On Tuesday, December 14, I joined with faith leaders and DREAM Act students from around the nation to urge the Senate to adopt the DREAM Act. Together we prayerfully marched around the three Senate buildings replicating what Joshua did in the Hebrew scriptures to bring down the walls of Jericho. Our group was attempting to bring down the walls that some senators have put up against the DREAM Act.
When the march ended, the DREAM students gathered in a circle as the rest of us surrounded them and prayed that senators would open their hearts and grant new opportunities to these students. At one point I looked up to see one of the students with tears rolling down her cheeks and her eyes squeezed shut. Her hands were gripped tightly to the students next to her, and I could feel the passion in her prayers. The anger I've had at the lack of concern towards our immigration policies intensified at the moment.
How can so many senators who are people of faith, not support a piece of legislation that displays one of the core values of our faith -- love? Particularly with the Christmas spirit all around, where love and compassion permeate our lives, how can people exclude the DREAM students from the opportunities that the American dream promises?
"The command to love the stranger is a consistent theme throughout scripture and occurs nearly three dozen times in the first five books of the Bible. In the Hebrew Scriptures, it is surpassed in its frequency only by the command to adore, love and revere God and God alone." (Cardinal Roger Mahoney, October 1993 Sermon)
One of Catholic social teaching's basic principals is the affirmation of life and human dignity, which extends to all people. People have the right to migrate to maintain a certain quality of life for themselves and their families. Biblical Christian teaching has encouraged the acceptance and sharing of love for all people, from all circumstances. In fact, the spirit of Christmas is one of inclusion and generosity, and it is during this time that our country's need for legislation like the DREAM Act is most evident. We need to make sure that we have room in the Inn.
I pray and continue to advocate so that Congress will reform our immigration system and help to reunite families, not tear them apart.
Andrea Pascual is a lobby associate for NETWORK, a national catholic social justice lobby.