The room was hot and stifling and overcrowded, but the excitement was palpable as people gathered to witness the introduction of a new comprehensive immigration reform bill. I barely managed to squeeze in, edging through the throng of people who spilled into the hallways. And just in time.
A few moments later, a parade of Members of Congress filed in to cheers of "Yes, we can!" and "Sí, se puede!" from the immigrant families and members of clergy gathered behind the podium. And a few minutes later, flanked by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Progressive Caucus, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009.
In my involvement with Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, I've heard many stories of the fallout of a broken immigration system: families separated, seemingly endless waiting periods for legal immigration, undocumented immigrants afraid to report a crime for fear of being detained and deported. This is not what it looks like to love our neighbors or to care for the strangers among us.
As the son of naturalized American citizens, I've benefited from the rights and freedoms that my parents earned for me with years of their lives. I played no part in the process of their naturalization, but I've been able to appreciate and enjoy the blessings. And so I feel the added weight of responsibility that comes with privilege: knowing that any blessing that is bestowed is for the purpose that others may be blessed, and remembering that God will hold us accountable for what we do with what we have received (Luke 12:48).
In response to the introduction of CIR ASAP, CCIR issued a press release, including statements of support from national and local Christian leaders for the principles guiding the bill. While there remain many hurdles before comprehensive immigration reform is finally passed, for me this bill marks one more encouraging step in the journey toward fulfilling our biblical mandates to love our neighbors as ourselves and to care for the stranger among us.
Let's hope we see the destination in 2010.