Postville, Iowa, is a powerful place. Tuesday, hundreds of community members and people of faith from across the country gathered to pray and reflect on the traumatic events of May 12, 2008. The Des Moines Register did an excellent write-up on the vigil and the solidarity walk afterward to the Agriprocessors plant.
What surprised me most about my visit to Postville was the energy and passion with which community leaders speak about the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform. Postville school principal Chad Wahls told the press, "We can fix our immigration system through our children," and he advocates for passage of the DREAM Act in Congress this year. Mayor Leigh Rekow stated that "there is a nationwide problem which needs a fair and just solution." Each speaker in every public event on the anniversary of the raid underscored the importance of addressing a broken system to prevent further human suffering like what they have experienced this year.
Local faith leaders have been adamant about the need for reform. In reference to Isaiah 61:1-2, Archbishop Jerome Hanus of the Archdiocese of Dubuque proclaimed, "This, my friends, is our time. It is our moment. It is our year of favor. Let us proclaim the year 2009 as the year of comprehensive immigration reform." Rabbi Darryl Crystal of KAM Isaiah Israel in Chicago reminded us that we must answer Isaiah's call to bring freedom to those who are unjustly imprisoned, to liberate all who are chained by monitoring devices that "deny their humanity," and to bind the wounded hearts of "all whose souls are stained by our failed immigration system, which victimizes people who are in need and enables those who would oppress others." The resounding call from local and national faith leaders was to go forth from our gathering place with the courage, hope, and love to bring about the change our immigration laws so desperately need.
Allison Johnson is the campaign coordinator of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Her commentary "Shackling the Stranger" appeared in the April issue of Sojourners.