Immigration

Tom Ehrich 6-17-2014

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich/RNS

Right-wing politicians are fond of saying we need more Christian influence in American political life.

I don’t disagree with that. But I wonder if they have any idea what they are asking. For a nation guided by Christian principles would bear scant resemblance to their political agenda.

Take immigration, for example. Jesus practiced radical welcome, not the restrictive legalistic barriers envisioned by conservatives, and certainly not the denigration of dark-skinned immigrants and the unleashing of armed posses along the Rio Grande.

God’s people, after all, began as immigrants and refugees. God saw them as a “beacon” to all nations.

Michelle Warren 6-16-2014
Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock.com

Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock.com

In 1910 my great-grandmother, Gelsamine Ferrigno, arrived at Ellis Island — a teen bride with her husband and two children desperate to make a better life. The story that has been passed down, confirmed by relatives both here and in Italy, is that the family decided that Gelsamine and Albert were the most likely to succeed so they pooled their resources, put them on a boat to America, said their goodbyes and told them to get work, make money, and send it back to their needy family in Solerno, Italy.

I often think about the elements of what I know of my story: immigrants from Italy, teenagers bearing a family burden, pressure to learn language and culture, permanent goodbyes to everything they ever knew, loneliness, fear.

There are two main reasons I often reminisce on this story in my family history.  First, I am eagerly working to support reform to our immigration laws for the immigrants of today.

Our immigration laws are broken and are in dire need of some attention. Families are being separated, a permanent underclass is being kept in the shadows, and our country continues to thrive on the adage “we want your work, we just don’t want you.” It is not just. It is not biblical, and there is no reason for politicians to willfully put politics before the needs of vulnerable people in our communities. 

6-13-2014
Last week, evangelical congregations across America began screening a documentary called The Stranger: Immigration, Scripture and the American Dream, produced by a group called the Evangelical Immigration Table. Among EIT’s advocates are a host of uncommon bedfellows: Mathew Staver of the Liberty University School of Law and Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and popular pastors Max Lucado and Wilfredo de Jesús.
6-13-2014
Sojourners President Jim Wallis tweeted on Tuesday night, that "Eric Cantor was not an ally of immigration reform but a likely obstacle. His loss could give Speaker Boehner the chance to finally pass it." "Immigration reform is now the moral test of Congress. With Eric Cantor now out of the way, it's all up to one man — Speaker John Boehner," he added.
6-13-2014
The Evangelical Immigration Table, a group of 11 religious leaders ranging from White House confidante Jim Wallis, the president of the Christian social justice agency Sojourners, to Russell Moore, the leader of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, had planned to use Mr. Cantor’s widely assumed primary victory as a jumping off point to pressure him to proceed on immigration reform legislation.
Joey Longley 6-13-2014

With the growing crisis of undocumented minors coming to the United States without a parent or guardian, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) urged the government to allow them to provide compassionate care to these at-risk youth.

NaLEC president Rev. Gabriel Salguero is confident that the church will play a crucial role in solving this humanitarian crisis, just like it supports people through so many crises.

“It is incomprehensible to us that faith leaders and relief agencies who are at the forefront of responding to natural disasters, foster-care, and even ministry to detainees across the nation and world, are being kept from doing what we do best, compassionate service. The U.S. should create policies that facilitate this partnership,” Rev. Salguero said in a news release.

The influx of unaccompanied minors into the United States is primarily caused by drug-related violence in Central America, which leaves children looking for a safe haven. Hispanic evangelical churches are already working with partners in Central America to fight against this violence.

“We are working with our faith partners in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to respond to some of the core causes like increased gang-violence and issues of deprivation. Any exclusion of communities who are ready to help is creating an unnecessary obstacle with a great track record of humanitarian responses,” Rev. Salugero added in the release.

Joey Longley 6-11-2014

Supporters of immigration reform gathered near the U.S. Capitol on June 25, 2013. RNS Photo by Adelle M. Banks.

Yesterday was one of the craziest days in recent American political history. House Majority leader Eric Cantor fell to Tea Party economics professor David Brat in a primary upset no pundit saw coming.

While the early analysis suggested that support for immigration reform may have been what brought Cantor down, exit polling suggests his lack of attention to the concerns of his constituents and his inability to deliver on his promises were a greater factor than the immigration issue. Cantor never brought a vote on immigration to the floor and was never a strong ally on immigration.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released an immigration poll at the Brookings Institute. Nearly 80 percent of all Americans and nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants remain in support of immigration reform that includes a path towards citizenship or legal status.

Jim Wallis 6-11-2014
Sign above John Boehner's Capitol office, Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Sign above John Boehner's Capitol office, Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

The stunning primary defeat of Eric Cantor could be a blessing for passing immigration reform. Cantor, as Majority Leader in the House and the number two Republican, was no ally of immigration reform and was likely an obstacle to crucial bi-partisan action. Always lurking in the shadows and clearly hoping to be the next Speaker of the House, Cantor was a threat to John Boehner. Apparently, continually working the inside game to become the Speaker, instead of being a member of Congress who represented his district was one of the biggest reasons Cantor lost his election.

6-09-2014
Washington often loses sight of the common good. Instead of considering how to best serve the public, many of our elected leaders focus on advancing the agenda of their political party or their own careers. The general welfare is sacrificed for the sake of individual gain. Immigration reform is a textbook example.
6-09-2014
The people we meet change our lives. Through hearing the stories and learning about the lives of others, we are transformed. And, it is for exactly those reasons that I hope you'll watch this short trailer and sign up to be one of the first people to watch The Stranger.
6-09-2014
"Giving the Republicans space takes away their final excuse," said Jim Wallis, president of Christian social justice group Sojourners. "It's all now focused on John Boehner."
6-09-2014
Sojourners President Jim Wallis said that House Speaker John Boehner faces both a moral and a biblical choice regarding putting immigration reform up for a vote in Congress before the August deadline, or it will likely be delayed for another year.
6-09-2014
Add Sojourners, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration to the list of groups which, almost incomprehensibly, asked Obama to “move cautiously.”
6-05-2014
"At its heart, immigration reform is about people, not politics," Jim Wallis, President and Founder of Sojourners, says in a National Journal piece. "Inspired by the teachings of our faith and deeply concerned about the suffering and degradation the current system imposes on millions of people created in God's image, evangelicals and many other people of faith have been steadfast in our support for congressional action to fix and heal this moral crisis."
6-05-2014
A pro-reform coalition that includes the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, National Immigration Forum, Service Employees International Union, Sojourners, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human rights, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration recently urged "speaker Boehner and his colleagues to seize the moment," while calling on Obama to restrain himself from taking any executive action on immigration until at least August.
Jason Schoff 6-05-2014
Immigration rally in Washington, D.C., in April 2013. Chad Zuber / Shutterstock.

Immigration rally in Washington, D.C., in April 2013. Chad Zuber / Shutterstock.com

As immigration reform gains more and more bipartisan support in Congress, I am encouraged by our lawmakers’ positive steps forward, and I can’t help but think of my own story on immigration.

When I first started working on immigration, I was naïve. My wife and I started ministering to immigrants in 2005, and I thought our work would be all about sharing the Gospel of Christ.

I thought we would share in word and deed and our acts of service would show compassion. I was sure moving to the neighborhood would help make us equal participants in our community together, but certain things would make this nearly impossible.

6-04-2014
Midgett previously worked with Sojourners, an EIT partner, on "The Line," a documentary about poverty in America that followed a similar format, telling the stories of three families affected by poverty.
6-04-2014
The letter was signed by the SEIU; the US Conference of Catholic Bishops; the National Immigration Forum; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; the liberal evangelical group Sojourners; and the conservative Hispanic group the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. These groups' highest priority is broad or comprehensive immigration reform, to overhaul the immigration system as a whole — which is something only Congress can do.
Sarah Quezada 6-04-2014
Immigration rally in Bakersfield, Calif., Richard Thornton / Shutterstock.com

Immigration rally in Bakersfield, Calif., Richard Thornton / Shutterstock.com

"All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

When my husband Billy and I married, he was a supervisor for underground drilling construction crews. It was hard work, but he enjoyed the fast pace and his team. Most of the workers, including Billy, were undocumented immigrants, working illegally in the U.S.

I was nervous. My new husband was driving giant construction equipment all over Southern California without a valid driver’s license. I knew one mistake could result in deportation and our sharing life together in Guatemala.

I expected exploitation and injustice. So while I was angry when situations arose, like not getting paid for a month’s worth of work, I can’t honestly say I was surprised. What did stun me, however, was a bizarre experience with Billy’s boss.

Billy had worked for James for a little over a year when a series of broken promises encouraged Billy to look elsewhere for a job. He found a company familiar with his work and willing to make him an offer. He politely turned in his two week’s notice.

James was not happy. In fact, he told Billy not to bother working the final two weeks. Then he did the unthinkable: he called and reported Billy’s immigration status to the authorities.

Hope Mustakim 6-04-2014
Naz and Hope embrace after 10 months apart. Photo courtesy freenaz.com

Naz and Hope embrace after 10 months apart. Photo courtesy freenaz.com

For Nazry and I, our faith is paramount to how we think about immigration policy. The heaviest tears that we cried during his 10 months of detention were for the men and women in the detention centers who were scared and confused, without a network of support to sustain them like my husband had. 

 

 

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