The “Nuns on the Bus” are back from their 6,800-mile trek across the U.S., but their hardest job may be yet to come: convincing the Republican-led House to pass immigration reform.
The cross-country tour, a project of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, was the nuns’ second cross-country trip after last year’s push to protest proposed budget cuts that the sisters said would hurt the poor.
When it comes to lobbying for comprehensive immigration reform, Sister Simone Campbell said even the Catholic bishops are on board with the Nuns on the Bus.
On Monday I watched as my young DREAMer friends pause to pray from the “other side” of the fence in Nogales, Mexico before attempting to cross the border back into the Arizona. Rev. John Fife, founder of the Sanctuary Movement, walked with his hand on the shoulder of Marco Saavedra. As he approached the border, a reporter asked Marco if he had anything to say. “Perfect love casts out all fear,” he said. Then he stepped forward into the unknown.
All nine immigrant youth leaders grew up in the U.S., some of them qualify for Deferred Action for Childhod Arrivals, therefore are DREAMers. They chose to leave the U.S. to accompany their undocumented peers, who also grew up here, but who left or were deported because of a broken immigration system. They and their families are victims of the broken U.S. border policy. So “documented” and “undocumented” youth, standing together for justice, met on the Mexico side of the border an attempted to cross back into the U.S. together. They were immediately arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and are now detained at the Correction Corporation of America’s private detention center in Eloy, Ariz.
While many groups are focused on the upcoming congressional recess and on outreach efforts to their members of Congress in their home districts, evangelical Christians have another priority in mind this week.
Today, hundreds of evangelicals from across the country will gather on Capitol Hill to host the Pray4Reform Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action. The day includes a press conference, worship service, and a full day of meetings at congressional offices to urge immigration reform.
You can follow the day’s events by visiting http://pray4reform.org/, where the news conference and worship service will be live streamed. Also, follow and join the conversation via social media by following the hashtag #pray4reform.
The GOP was highly criticized by Democratic officials for their plan to offer a path to citizenship for illegal children with the exclusion of legalizing their parents. White House advisors remain spiteful of the GOP’s immigration plans accusing them of “cruel hypocrisy.” The Associated Press reports:
Dan Pfeiffer (FI'-fer) says over Twitter that the plan boils down to allowing some kids to stay while deporting their parents.
Read more here.
As support for immigration reform grows, Catholic college and university presidents from across the country have joined the movement.
Last Thursday, more than 90 influential presidents released a letter calling on the House to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes an earned path to citizenship. Taking into account the growing Catholic makeup in Congress, which has reached a historic high, presidents from the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, and The Catholic University of America joined the chorus calling for appropriate moral and practical action to take place on the issue.
Evangelical leaders pushing for comprehensive immigration reform will be back in Washington next week, praying and lobbying on Capitol Hill.
They’ll need all the help they can get — divine or otherwise — after the Senate’s immigration reform bill hit a brick wall of opposition in the Republican-controlled House.
Dozens of Catholic university presidents sent a letter Thursday to Catholic members of Congress urging them to act, declaring, “We are part of an immigrant church in an immigrant nation.”
President Barack Obama pushed back immigration reform on Tuesday indicating the bill will likely be passed in the fall. Expressing his opinion to Telemundo’s Denver affiliate, Obama supports the notion that all illegal immigrants be granted citizenship following an agreement upon GOP leaders. The Washington Post reports:
The president said that denying undocumented immigrants the chance to become citizens would leave them “permanently resigned to a lower status. That’s not who we are as Americans.”
Read more here.
On Wednesday, July 10th, when most eyes were on the private GOP meeting where republicans gathered in the Capitol basement to strategize on immigration reform in the House, advocates were rallying outside House buildings to urge members to enact immigration reform.
Uncertain of what the next steps are in the House, hundreds of activists, families, and faith leaders all gathered proudly and united in front of the Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings as they chanted loudly, “Si se puede!”
Not discouraged by the hot summer heat, marchers hoped to catch GOP members as they ended their internal meeting and walked back to their offices.
As House republicans meet today in a private meeting to strategize on their approach to immigration reform, all eyes are watching and urging them to steer away from unpractical solutions and enact commonsense immigration reform.
The Wall Street Journal issued an opinion editorial today naming evangelicals as a critical group at risk of being "ignored" if House lets the bill die. The Journal writes:
The dumbest strategy is to follow the Steve King anti-immigration caucus and simply let the Senate bill die while further militarizing the border. This may please the loudest voices on talk radio, but it ignores the millions of evangelical Christians, Catholic conservatives, business owners and free-marketers who support reform. The GOP can support a true conservative opportunity society or become a party of closed minds and borders.
Read more here.
In recent weeks, a number of controversial and divisive political questions have dominated the news. Race and voting rights, abortion in Texas, and marriage equality at the Supreme Court have opened anew the scars of old political and cultural wars.
In this conflicted political ambit, the Samaritan's bold compassion is a needed reminder today. Let’s remember to be kind to the stranger, certainly. But just as important is that the story of the Good Samaritan also invites us to imagine ourselves in a different part of this narrative.
Imagine yourself not as the Samaritan seeking to love God and neighbor. Imagine yourself as the person in need. A man on the brink of death. A woman in deepest grief. A man lost in the world. A woman with no hope. Imagine yourself at your most vulnerable, deep in despair with only one hope: perhaps someone will help me.
On the eve of the GOP immigration summit, during which Republicans will determine their position and strategy on immigration reform, the Evangelical Immigration Table held a press conference with national leaders to strongly urge House members to find the political courage to move forward on commonsense immigration reform.
“We have forgotten to engage in conversation and instead have focused on throwing stones at arguments,” David Cooper, President and Head of School at Front Range Christian School in Littleton, Colo., said.
Currently, hundreds of Evangelical Christians are expected to join in a day of prayer and action in Washington, DC on July 24, following the 92-day Pray4Reform challenge. During this challenge, people of faith across the country are taking a few minutes each day to lift up their political leaders in prayer as they consider the options moving forward. More than 25,000 prayer partners have signed up for the challenge since its start, and we welcome many more to join.
Editor's Note: In April, Associated Press representatives said they would no longer recommend the term "illegal immigrant" in the influential AP Style Guide used by many in print media. However, the term is still used by many media outlets and in common parlance. Our hope is that more will follow the AP's lead and rethink its usage.
As the Senate recently passed long awaited immigration overhaul and the bill now heads to the House, the long-standing national discourse on the issue of immigration will likely heat up again. As we participate in these discussions, my hope is that we, especially as Christians tasked with peacemaking and reconciling, will find ways to build bridges instead of erecting walls. As a first step in this bridge building, I pray that once and for all, we will stop using the term “illegal immigrant.”
1. The term “illegal immigrant” is a misleading and dishonest term, which violates the 9th commandment.
The term “illegal immigrant” lends one to believe that an individual is currently doing something illegal, or that their presence in our country is an ongoing, illegal act. In regards to undocumented workers, this is simply not the case. The crime that undocumented workers commit is a violation of “8 U.S.C. § 1325: Entry of Alien at improper time or place,” a federal misdemeanor. Their crime is crossing the border at the improper time and place; however, they are not currently doing anything that is illegal.
Therefore, using this term that has a less-than-honest connotation, is a violation of the commandment to not “bear false witness against our neighbors.”
By a 68-32 vote, the Senate just passed S.744, a bipartisan immigration reform bill that people of faith have held up as part of a solution to the United States’ broken immigration system. While it still has to make its way through the House of Representatives, here are the top 10 things that would happen if S. 744 became law:
1. It would create a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans.
Current immigration law has no way forward for immigrants who don’t have the right documents. The Senate bill would open doors for them to become full members of society.
2. It would bring hope to lots of people.
Around 8 million of the 11.4 million aspiring Americans living in the shadows would be able to gain legal status, giving them hope and opportunity. That’s as many people as live in the entire state of New York – a huge impact.
Debating whether immigrants will have a positive or negative effect on the United States’ economy, various political groups are arguing their viewpoints and analyzing a number of fiscal pros and cons that would stem from the passage of the immigration bill. The New York Times reports:
An overhaul of immigration law would reduce the federal deficit. That’s the conclusion of a broad range of studies, from the libertarian Cato Institute to the conservative American Action Forum to the liberal Center for American Progress. Wait, it would really increase the deficit. That’s the analysis of the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Immigration Studies. But hang on a second. Immigrants have little impact on the federal deficit. That’s what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development thinks.
Read more here.
They have many labels. Undocumented immigrants. Illegal Immigrants. Illegal Aliens. Wetbacks. Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, recently suggested that most of them are “drug mules.” Some have even called them “terrorists.” But few are known by their real names or treated as people with real lives.
Most of them live at the edges of the society, under inhumane and dangerous conditions, often separated from their loved ones. For some it may be a choice. However, a vast majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are driven to such extremes by factors beyond their control — political crisis, drug-related violence, famine, or eviction from their own homes at gunpoint. Theirs is a story of displacement, of being forced to flee their homes and take risks few would under normal circumstances. They are victims, not the offenders they are often made out to be. Still, for many, it is a story of being treated by the border security as violent criminals, being stripped of their clothes and dignity and separated from their families and traumatized in detention centers. It is also a story of ostracizing and exploitation by parts of the society. The labels and stereotypes about them “otherize” them in ways that prevent their full participation in the society. Injustices like these are the reason why NETWORK’s Nuns On The Bus have been touring across the country speaking out for immigration reform.
In order to stand a chance of the Presidency in the 2016 election, the Republican Party should not obstruct the ideas of an immigration overhaul, says Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Potential presidential candidate Marco Rubio is in favor of immigration reform as long as minor changes are made to the measure. The Guardian reports:
"The vast majority of Americans, the vast majority of conservative Republicans are prepared to support immigration reform, but only if we can ensure that we're not going to have another wave of illegal immigration in the future," said Rubio, a Florida senator and potential 2016 presidential Republican contender. "I think 95, 96% of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go. But there are elements that need to be improved."
Read more here.
On a recent Sunday morning, Jenny Yang stood beside a giant wooden cross and made a case for immigration reform to members of an evangelical church.
“As Americans, we have a responsibility when the laws are not working for the common good to change them,” she intoned from the pulpit.
The talk was part of a broader, cross-country effort to persuade evangelicals to back the bipartisan immigration bill that’s working its way through Congress.
We had taught, run, and dreamed together. Our ministries were growing, I was once again flourishing spiritually, but Richard seemed to be stalled. His peers were finishing college, finding jobs and mates, and Richard was hustling to find odd jobs and was being left behind. As we tended the land, I took a risk. I asked him why he had said he did not want a family. He confessed that he had reached that conclusion out of despair. He truly wanted to find a wife and previously hoped to have kids, but he did not have citizenship (his family moved to the U.S. when he was 7 years old) and was not able to find legal, reliable employment. He could not afford to go to college without access to financial aid. He insisted he simply would not start a family that he could not reliably provide for. He had lost hope. But he still had integrity. I was deeply saddened. I was saddened for Richard and his loss of hope. I was also saddened that our community and nation would potentially be deprived of his vision and courage.
I remember the first time I met someone without papers. They were 12 or 13, like me, and pretty unremarkable and brown. I can still feel the tension between my intense curiosity about this boy and my disappointment about him. Going from “I wonder if they have feelings like us” and “he doesn’t have a green card but does he have a mother who loves him” to “he’s kind of normal” and “this is not what I expected a real-life outlaw to look like” in a few quick minutes.
As life moved on and I made more friends, I met more people who were undocumented. I met grandmothers and little children and some college kids. My relationship with this issue kept transforming, from “I can say I have a friend who’s undocumented SO I KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, OK?” to “I have friends, some of whom don’t have papers, and I’d like to government to be nice to everybody.” The more undocumented immigrants I met, the less they seemed different at all.
It happened that way with abortion, too. And gay marriage. Start out with a simplistic interpretation of the Bible and a black-and-white opinion, befriend somebody at odds with that opinion, the opinion changes. Time after time. I was against women pastors —thanks to Paul and bad exegesis — until I realized that my mother had been spiritually leading people for 20 years and most of them had turned out OK.
I’m sure that if I run for president in 20 years, somebody is going to find a paper I wrote for my Biblical Interpretation class decrying the moral state of our socialized medical system, contrast that with my current view, and label me a flip-flopper. And they would be right, which would have worried me three years ago. But I’ve met some flip-floppers since then, and they’re pretty decent people. So I’m okay with that now.
To be honest, I don’t really trust people who have had the same opinions their entire lives. Which is probably why I don’t trust much Evangelical theology, these days. I think it’s natural to have your views about the world change as you experience more of the world, and I wish it were easier to be honest about that when it happened. I wish it were encouraged.
Despite the progress on immigration reform being made in the Senate, this week offered an unfortunate reminder of the uphill battle any legislation faces in the House of Representatives.
During it’s consideration of legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security, the House passed an amendment, authored by Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, to defund the administration’s efforts of prosecutorial discretion. Specifically, it would require DHS to deport young, undocumented immigrants known as “DREAMers.” The amendment also puts at risk anyone who qualifies for prosecutorial discretion under the June 2011 John Morton Memos while in deportation proceedings.
Essentially, this amendment would categorize all undocumented immigrants aside violent criminals who must be deported if encountered by law enforcement, regardless of their circumstances or contributions.