Pray Immigration Reform Into Passage

By Jim Wallis 3-18-2010

On Sunday, a major march for immigration reform will take place in Washington, D.C. Tens of thousands of people will gather to call on the White House to lead, and put forward an immigration reform bill whose time has come. We will march and we will pray. And the following morning, a high-level delegation of religious leaders will meet with key White House officials to press the same message. There are both Democrats and Republicans who in the past have said they supported comprehensive immigration reform, and so there ought now to be bipartisan support for such a bill. But in the ultra-partisan and poisoned atmosphere of the U.S. Congress now, bipartisan spirit has fled the halls of power. In Washington, politics is now just a game of win and lose, and it's only about the next election; the process of politics in the nation's capital is no longer about solving problems. But the problem is that there are children and families in the balance, and the politicians are now playing politics with the lives of vulnerable people. Those people are our brothers and sisters, they are our parishioners, and they are children of God. And the faith community has come together to say the time for politics over compassion is over.

The number of deportations in this administration's first year is higher than previous years, meaning more broken lives, more families torn apart. That is not what we meant by change. The president and members of Congress continue to assert their support for immigration reform; but actions speak louder than words. We all know that Congress is hesitant to tackle tough issues before mid-term elections. But comprehensive reform legislation must be introduced, and must be passed. We don't want more verbal commitments, we want action.

While politicians can write off one more piece of legislation on a packed agenda, they won't be able to write off, or ignore, a movement rooted in our faith communities. If our political leaders won't make room for the "strangers" among us, we will -- because Jesus commands us to do so. It's time to stop playing politics with people's lives.

We will surround our political leaders with the stories of suffering and pray this reform into passage. The faith community is united on the moral imperative of this issue like nothing we've seen in years, and we will do all it takes to see this cause move forward. At this crucial turning point, we must take the call of our scriptures seriously and act prophetically for justice. If Washington fails to make room for the strangers in our midst, we need to make it clear to Washington that we will do it ourselves, and not leave them alone until they do what's right.

For many of us, faith is a catalyst to action that can solve the really big issues - and this is one of the biggest we face now. People of faith need to look beyond the political calculations and see this for the moral and family crisis it is. It will take people of faith to knock down the doors of Congress and bring the stories of immigrant friends, neighbors, and family members as evidence of the injustices that are experienced on a daily basis. Finally, we need faith in a God who is larger than we can imagine, the God who weeps as we humans build border walls to separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters on the other side, the God of justice who isn't persuaded by the political timetables of Washington, D.C.

This is the message we will take to the streets of Washington on Sunday, and to the White House on Monday. We will boldly declare that it is morally wrong to keep families apart, and that it is morally right to fix the broken system, and to make sure that immigrants are treated with respect and mercy. We will ask the president and the leadership of the House and Senate not to wait any longer for bipartisan consensus to move immigration reform onto the agenda. Introduce the bill, Mr. President, and don't wait for those in the other party or even everyone in your own party to join you. Tell the country why this is both right and in the best interests of the country -- of us all. Tell them why it is the American thing to do. And then let us surround our Senators and Representatives with the testimonies of those who have suffered, and with the prayers of the people. We will create one of the most powerful prayer vigils for compassion and justice that this nation has ever seen -- both personally and publicly. Let us pray reform into passage.

portrait-jim-wallisJim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, CEO of Sojourners and blogs at

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