Immigration

Jonathan Barrett 04-09-2014
Jarrod McKenna and Zopho, photo by Aaron Bunch, AFR

Jarrod McKenna and Zopho, photo by Aaron Bunch, AFR

Editor's Note: The following story originally appeared HERE in The Australian Financial Review.

Jarrod McKenna is in trouble. It's not that the dreadlocked Christian activist is at risk of being arrested, as he has been at several anti-war and anti-coal protests. Rather, he has let five-year-old Congolese refugee Zephanta Baganizi eat the leftovers of our very late lunch, shortly before dinner time.

"Have you asked your mum if it's OK?" McKenna asks "Zopho," who is gazing at several pieces of bolani, a vegan flat-bread meal from Afghanistan. Transfixed by the food, Zopho doesn't respond.

"Just a small piece, then."

Zopho grabs the biggest piece. He runs off to his family's apartment, mouth overflowing with fried bread and vegetable filling.

"I'm in trouble," McKenna says.

The interaction between Australian, Congolese and Afghan food, people and culture is not uncommon at a large block at the end of Dudley Street in the outer Perth suburb of Midland.

It is the location of First Home Project; a former methamphetamine lab transformed into three apartments that provide medium-term accommodation at below-market rates for refugees transitioning into their new Australian lives.

Eliseo Medina 04-09-2014

Eliseo Medina at the Fast4Families tent on the National Mall in December. via Fast for Families/ Flickr.com

As an immigrant who made the long journey from Zacatecas, Mexico, to the farmlands of California many times as a child, the Lenten story of Jesus’s wandering for 40 days in the desert has always resonated with me very deeply. And the Easter celebration that follows sustains my hope and resolve that the faith community’s long movement to reform our broken immigration system will succeed.

Late last year, I, along with several other immigration advocates and inspiring faith leaders, camped out in a tent on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to call attention to the moral crisis and human suffering caused by our broken immigration system. We asked ourselves: What are our faith, our words, and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice, and redemption?

So, for 30 days we fasted and prayed that leadership in the House of Representatives would follow the Senate’s lead and pass a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill. The power of prayer surrounded us as we were led in reflection on a daily basis by pastors who serve undocumented families, by immigrants who suffer under our unjust system, and by public officials who came to see our commitment as days without food turned into weeks.

Even though the House refused to act in 2013, we believe that our fast, and the support of thousands of solidarity fasters around the world, helped change the discussion about reform from one of dollars and cents to one about people and families. Our sacrifice and the suffering of our immigrant brothers and sisters will end in victory and redemption.

Matthew Soerens 04-09-2014
Unity concept, C Jones / Shutterstock.com

Unity concept, C Jones / Shutterstock.com

As we approach Holy Week, I’ve been re-reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ Last Supper, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. In John 17, as Jesus prays for his disciples and their successors in the hours before he is arrested, he prays for our unity as his church:

…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21, 23)

Central to our mission as Christ’s followers is to share with the world this good news: that the Father sent the Son because he so loved the world — but the best observable evidence of that Gospel reality, a unified Church, seems a distant, utopian dream. Just within the United States — this small sliver of the global church — we are divided by denomination, by race, by political ideology, and by the competitive human instinct that leads even those congregations who resemble one another doctrinally, ethnically, and politically to jockey over the same individuals in order to fill their sanctuaries (or auditoriums) and offering plates. Perhaps the situation is not quite so stark: I know that many — probably most — believers share the desire for unity. It just seems at times that we have so far to go, and might be drifting in the wrong direction.

Lisa Sharon Harper 04-09-2014

#Fast4Families bus tour group, via @Fast4Famliies on Twitter

I was traveling to Culpeper, Va., on the #Fast4Families bus tour to speak to a group of workers assembled at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. As we looked out the window we were struck that every 50 feet there stood a plaque marking the place where another significant battle took place in the Civil War.

As we sat down in the church, I didn’t know what I was going to say to all-immigrant group. My message up to that point had focused on mobilizing non-immigrants to join the movement. What could I say to this immigrant gathering?

I prayed. I asked God, “What do you want to speak to this group through me?’ And the dots started to connect.

04-07-2014
Michel Zajur, CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Virginia, lauded the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants and Jim Wallis of the Christian social justice organization Sojourners stressed the religious aspect of immigration reform.
04-07-2014
Last November, Fast for Families drew national attention when some of its leaders and supporters fasted for 22 days in a tent near the U.S. Capitol. Lisa Sharon Harper, of Sojourners, a Washington social justice group, was one of them and was on the bus Wednesday. She grew up in Philadelphia.
04-07-2014
“We’ve been calling on people to fast because now is the time,” said Lisa Sharon Harper (at lectern in photo), who works for the DC-based Sojourners.
04-07-2014
Jim Wallis, the president and founder of Sojourners, reiterated that fact in a Time.com op-ed, writing: "Young people, who came here as children, live as 'illegals' in the only country they have ever known as home."
Ivone Guillen 04-04-2014
Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

Some advocacy groups focus on Congressional action. Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

With Easter recess around the corner, immigration supporters are in full force with their advocacy plans. Efforts have taken a two-tier approach: some groups focus on Congressional action for meaningful and broad reform this year, while others are focusing on administration fixes to reduce deportations.

Recently, pressure has mounted on the Obama Administration, as groups attempt to stop the unjust deportations of non-criminal immigrants who have roots in the U.S. The Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) will soon reach its 2 millionth deportation under the Obama Administration. The rising volume of deportations has caused uproar amongst the immigrants’ rights community, as advocates highlight the moral crisis in communities with families facing separation from loved ones. Advocates are urging the president to use his executive powers to ease unjust deportations that cause needless pain and suffering.

QR Blog Editor 04-01-2014

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' will hold a border mass in Nogales, Ariz., at noon eastern time.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, from the Archdiocese of Boston, and seven other bishops will gather at the border calling attention to the humanitarian issues that persist and calling on Congress to pass humane and commonsense immigration reform.

The event comes amid increased support for immigration reform in the Christian community. Recently, Catholics and evangelicals joined together to send an open letter to Congress and had key joint hill meetings. Urging reform that’s rooted in biblical principles, the national leaders met with the offices of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

The event will be live streamed below.

Shakei Haynes 04-01-2014

The Fast for Families bus continues its journey across the country getting closer to its final destination: Washington, D.C., on April 9. Fast for Families’ leader, Eliseo Medina was arrested in Miami on March 21 and released later that night. Medina was arrested at Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart’s Doral office while delivering a letter on immigration reform with constituents and immigrant rights advocates.

Continuing to advocate for fair and humane immigration reform, fasters pressed on into week five and made stops in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Fasters met with the staff members of Republican Rep. Mike Rogers in Lansing, Mich., to press for support.

“America has a proud heritage as a nation of immigrants, but our current immigration system is clearly broken ...” Rogers said in a statement. “I am ready to start small and work together to create meaningful bipartisan legislation, piece by piece.”

Troy Jackson 03-26-2014
Immigration reform rally in California, Richard Thornton / Shutterstock.com

Immigration reform rally in California, Richard Thornton / Shutterstock.com

As we quickly approach Holy Week in the Christian calendar, our attention turns increasingly to the passion and crucifixion of Jesus. According to the Gospel accounts, one of the last phrases that Jesus spoke while suffering on the cross is a recitation of the opening line of Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Even Jesus, whom Christians hold to be the Son of God, experienced feeling forsaken by his Heavenly Father. And the words of the Psalmist go further, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”

As I reflect on the plight of the undocumented immigrant in the United States today, I wonder if the words of the Psalmist, echoed by Jesus on the cross, don’t hit a little too close to home.

Ivone Guillen 03-25-2014

While many members of Congress are waiting for the primary season to be over before they make any solid decision on immigration reform, a recent New American Economy poll shows conservative members on Congress have little to worry about.

“The results cut against Republican concerns that passing immigration reform will keep their base voters away from the polls this fall, and indicates that the economy and the health care reform law are the key issues driving voters.”

Read full article here.

Ivone Guillen 03-24-2014

On Friday, Eliseo Medina, a prominent immigration rights activists was arrested after trying to peacefully deliver a letter to Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) district office. Eliseo, who is part of the “Fast for Families Across America” bus tour advocating for Congressional action on fair and commonsense immigration reform was denied entrance by local police into the Congressman’s public office.

The arrest comes on the heels of constructive meetings with Minority Leader Nancy Peolosi and Rep. Joe Garcia in Miami.

Read detailed events here.

Stacey Schwenker 03-21-2014
Stacey Schwenker/Sojourners

The Immigration Reform Now rally. Stacey Schwenker/Sojourners

I don’t know what came over me. Was it what Noel Castellanos (CEO of CCDA) had said? What Jim Wallis (President of Sojourners) had said? Perhaps. I couldn’t keep the tears from coming. Walking up Broadway Street in Los Angeles in the middle of a Saturday afternoon as a crowd of people blew horns, held signs, and chanted, “Immigration reform now,” I wept. It was because of Ivone. I was even wearing my Faith is Greater Than Fear shirt but lurking along the sidewalk, not intending to get involved. But it's too late for that. I love Ivone like a sister, I’m already knee deep in it.

Jim, Noel, and Jenny Yang (World Relief) had just been speaking on a panel at the Justice Conference about immigration reform. Jim said that we had to pass comprehensive immigration reform now, before the summer recess. And I knew in my heart that he was right. Because if we don’t, then Ivone will continue to lie in limbo along with 11 million other aspiring Americans, perhaps being deported in a couple of years. We will both continue to live in uncertainty and fear.

Ivone Guillen 03-21-2014
Courtesy Fast for Families

The #Fast4Families bus stops in Aurora, Colo. Courtesy Fast for Families

Entering its fourth week on the road, the Fast for Families bus continues its journey across the country getting closer to its final destination: Washington, D.C. on April 9.  

Continuing the call for fair and humane immigration reform, fasters visited Arlington, Texas last week on the southern trail, connecting with members of Congress who shared their goals for immigration reform.

“The trickiest issue is what do you do with people that are here [undocumented]?” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who is drafting his own immigration bill and hopes to introduce it in late spring or early summer. “We need to weed out the bad apples and send them back home or put them in jail. But the others whose only [unauthorized] act is coming to this country [undocumented], we sort them out and put them on a legalization path, and minors on a citizenship path.”

Rev. Eunsang Lee 03-18-2014
Courtesy Fast for Families

Vice President Joe Biden visits the Fast for Families tent in November. Courtesy Fast for Families

I became a member of Young Koreans United (YKU), a Korean American grassroots group providing solidarity to the people’s movement for democracy, human rights, and reunification of Korea in 1986. YKU was instrumental in forming the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC); established 20 years ago to build a progressive Korean American voice on major civil rights issues. I joined the NAKASEC board a few years back. Throughout this time, I have tried to provide a clergy presence whenever I can to show that ending the suffering of immigrant families, including that of the 1 out of 7 undocumented Korean Americans, is also a concern of persons of faith.

03-18-2014
High profile leaders such as SEIU labor organizer Eliseo Medina and faith leader Jim Wallis of Sojourners were among those fasting.
Ivone Guillen 03-14-2014

Feeling the pressure from some immigrants’ rights groups on the record-breaking number of deportations under his administration (2 million by early April), President Barack Obama recently requested a review on his deportation polices. The goal is to see if enforcement can be applied “more humanely within the confines of the law,” the White House said Thursday.

The decision comes after a recent meeting Obama had with three leading Hispanic leaders from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The CHC, which is trying to formalize a resolution directed at Obama against deportations, capitalized on the opportunity to vocalize the outcry from the immigration-rights community on the inflated number of deportations that separate loved ones.

“It is clear that the pleas from the community got through to the President,” Gutierrez said in a later statement. “The CHC will work with him to keep families together. The president clearly expressed the heartbreak he feels because of the devastating effect that deportations have on families.”

Acknowledging the detrimental effect of deportations, “The president emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system.”

The president called on Jeh Johnson, DHS Secretary to administer a review of the current enforcement policies.

Obama has also requested a scheduled meeting on Friday with top immigration activists who have been pressuring him to act on immigration. Although the president and his staff has frequently said using executive action is not an option, advocates remain hopeful that the increasing pressure will result in action and see the review as a step in the right direction.

Read full article with details here.

Shakei Haynes 03-14-2014
Fast for Families/Flickr

Fasters prayers in front of Rep Ted Poe's office outside the bus near Houston, Texas. Fast for Families/Flickr

Building on the momentum from last year’s fast on the National Mall, the #Fast4Families campaign has entered into its next phase: a cross-country bus tour. Keeping with the theme “Act; Fast; and Pray until just immigration reform is achieved,” #Fast4 Families kicked off its national bus tour on Jan. 27 from California, where hundreds gathered in support.

The tour across America includes two buses heading through approximately 155 cities in more than 75 congressional districts on northern and southern routes. At each of these 100+ stops, fasters will engage with pro-reform advocates, including faith leaders, who are keenly aware of the moral crisis caused by our broken immigration system.

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