Immigration Reform: The time has come

By Jim Wallis 6-11-2009

The time has come for comprehensive immigration reform. After several failed attempts in past years, the president has promised it and the White House is showing a clear commitment to it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that it is one of his top three priorities for this year. Next week, the president will meet at the White House with congressional leadership on immigration reform. The debate on reform is moving and will only intensify.

There is a new factor now in the debate. A grassroots movement is growing across the country and there is increasing support for reform. And the faith community is playing a major role. In fact, the growing movement toward immigration reform is deeply rooted in the faith community, across the political spectrum. It's very important to note that this isn't a liberal or a "Left" issue anymore, or even an "ethnic" issue. There are conservative Christian leaders, Latino, African-American, and Anglo, who are seeing immigration reform as a critical matter of faith, not just another political issue or a special interests issue.

Around the country, people of faith are taking action. The Family Unity tour sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez traveled to evangelical churches in over 21 cities over the past year, calling people of faith to take action against the separation of families. Clergy in Iowa are organizing and taking a prophetic stance in support of immigration reform after the devastating Postville raid in May 2008. We were part of an effort that sent 30,000 letters to the Department of Justice to stop Sheriff Arpaio and his racial profiling of Latinos in Arizona. We haven't seen a response to an action alert like that in some time. We see clergy holding vigils at detention centers calling for just treatment of immigrants that were denied due process. Family values are at stake here. When the U.S. government is separating families, it is getting at the heart of our Christian conviction. There is now the activity and momentum of a real movement across the country. A rising tide of Christian faith says that this is something that we can no longer ignore. The timing is right and hopefully this fall we will see a strong effort from the White House on comprehensive immigration reform.

In response, we have re-launched Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. A new statement of principles has already been endorsed by 27 national religious organizations and 40 leaders. It proposes five guiding principles:

  • Enforcement initiatives that are consistent with humanitarian values.
  • Reforms in our family-based immigration system that reduce waiting times for separated families to be reunited.
  • A process for all immigrant workers and their families already in the U.S. to earn citizenship upon satisfaction of specific criteria.
  • An expansion of legal avenues for workers and families to enter our country and work in a safe and legal manner with their rights and due process fully protected.
  • Examining solutions to address the root causes of migration, such as economic disparities between sending and receiving nations.

You can sign the statement of principles and join the growing movement of Christians who are deeply concerned about the lack of immigration reform in our nation. And to support the growing grassroots movement for immigration reform, a new interactive Web site has also been launched, designed to equip the faith community to engage in the immigration debate. The site features organizing resources and a clearinghouse of information on the need for immigration reform and the role the faith community can play in supporting reform efforts.

The time has come. We need comprehensive immigration reform. And with people of faith leading the way, we can achieve it.

Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners.

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