The battles over immigration reform and race have weighed heavily on me this summer. They have each become a symbol and a test, for me, of whether we can resurrect “the common good” in this nation.
I say that having just met with virtually all the key decision makers on when, how, and even if our nation’s politicians have the capacity to reform our terribly broken immigration system and help heal the nation from all the pain it has caused. Almost two-thirds of the country — both Democrat and Republican — is for reform, but this ideological impasse is now the greatest threat to our 11 million undocumented friends and neighbors in this country. I have met with both Republican and Democrat senators and members of Congress, including their leaders, the president and his leadership team, law enforcement officials, business leaders, and hundreds of pastors and Christians across denominations and backgrounds — all of whom want to repair this deeply flawed and cruel system.
There is so little substance to oppose reform. It’s good for the economy, for law enforcement, for families, communities, and congregations, and for the moral fabric of our nation — as a place of diversity, growth, and welcoming.
You see, politics really isn’t the problem here. Nobody wants to talk about what is at the very heart of the problem: race.
I have always loved baseball. Growing up on the mean streets of East Los Angeles, baseball was the one activity that kept me away from the pitfalls many young Latino males face on a daily basis. Summer days were spent—sunrise to sunset—in makeshift sandlots in the shadows of Dodger Stadium, fielding bad-hop grounders and striping screaming line drives. It was our neighborhood pastime.
On the occasion when enough coins were scraped up to venture into the venerable cathedral, Dodger Stadium, our baseball heroes paraded before us on this hallowed turf. Our childhood heroes were rarely categorized according to ethnicity and nation of origin but always according to the color of their uniform, Dodger Blue. It was the name on the front of the uniform that mattered, not the back.
As maturity set in and the complexity of national racial issues manifested themselves with the social unrest of the late 1960s, I came to a deeper understanding of the diverse and painful racialized world in which I lived. Baseball was not the safe and immune haven I had first imagined. I became aware of the once segregated Negro Leagues and the painful history of Jackie Robinson, the first Black player to integrate into the “major leagues.” I also realized that even in my English speaking, Mexican-American home, I too was not nationally normative. I was Mexican-American, Latino, Hispanic, Chicano (albeit, born in the United States) and spoke with a distinct accent that immediately identified me as such which, in this country, included labels like wetback, beaner, spic[!], etc.
It was about this time that my relationship with the national pastime took an interesting turn. As much as I wanted to focus on the name on the front of the uniform, I couldn’t help but notice the names on the back of the uniform. Cepeda, Clemente, Marichal, Tiant, and Concepción all became a part of my racialized purview. This realization came to full fruition with the onset of Fernandomania in the 1980s.
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.
“This is a day that the Lord has made.”
Those words begin a very popular worship song among evangelical Christians. And they were the first words that came to my mind when I stood alongside the widest spectrum of evangelical leaders we have ever seen at a gathering yesterday morning on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. We were there to lead a day of prayer and discussion with the leaders of the House of Representatives about the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform — more specifically to fix a system that is not only broken, but cruel for millions of people.
The whole day was sponsored and led by the Evangelical Immigration Table, one of the most hopeful signs in many years of how Christians can come together to make a difference. At the press conference, Christianity Today editor Andy Crouch, speaking as a journalist, said he has never seen such evangelical unity over any other issue
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.
God’s desire that we show others hospitality is a common theme in scripture; in the Old Testament showing hospitality was a cultural norm, much as it is today in shame and honor cultures. The New Testament frequently expresses its central importance as well. However, what does it actually mean to show hospitality? This is where things really get interesting: in English, we typically understand hospitality as a willingness to host, feed, and entertain a guest … something we all do and especially with our personal friends. However, what if the biblical term has a much deeper (and more difficult) meaning?
This is the problem we run into when we read the Bible in English and assume we understand what it’s saying … often, we don’t — or at least we don’t understand it fully. Trying to translate between languages is tricky like that, and the concept of “hospitality” is a prime example of what is missed between one language and another.
Based on our English definition, most everyone would consider themselves hospitable. But are we really?
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.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said in an interview with CBS on Sunday that “immigration reform isn’t about him.” Denying CBS’s Bob Corner insight in to his own personal views on immigration, Boehner refused to share details about what parts of the immigration bill he feels should pass the House when it comes time for their final debates. Boehner, who is opposed to granting citizenship for illegal immigrants, claimed the bill which passed the Senate last month will “not pass the House.”
The Guardian reports:
The Senate has passed a sweeping, bipartisan immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship, which Republican opponents have called an "amnesty" that would reward lawbreakers and attract more illegal immigrants. Boehner said taking a personal stand on the issue would make it harder for him to find consensus on immigration in the House.
Read more here.
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.
In the next few weeks President Barack Obama is expected to visit key states throughout the U.S. Making it his mission to explain the economic values immigrants would have on the U.S. if in fact the bill were to pass, democratic officials believe Obama will use his time to highlight financial gains that would come from the passing of immigration reform.TIME reports:
It is, allies concede, a telling sign that the bill’s fortunes are foundering in the fractious Republican-controlled House — and a symbol of Obama’s vanishing clout just six months into his second term. Democratic officials expect that over the coming weeks Obama will travel across the U.S., likely to strategically important states like Nevada, North Carolina and Texas, to highlight the economic benefits of the law. Obama summoned Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator John McCain to the White House on Thursday to discuss ways to advance the bill in the House. The West Wing is waiting on House Republicans to choose a path on immigration reform before finalizing its strategy, but aides plan a markedly different role for the President over the coming months.
Read more here.
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.
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.
The month of July stands as an important time for Congress as members of the House and Senate attempt to make decisions about six major U.S. issues. Some vital decisions that need to be agreed upon before next month’s recess involve: immigration reform, student loan debates, budget planning, and fiscal issues. The Washington Post reports:
Significant debates await the House and Senate in the coming weeks over a new budget, a new farm bill, federally-subsidized student loans, several key Obama administration nominees and an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, which remains the year’s biggest political fight.
Read more here.
There have been Ingelses of my line in the United States, the colonies, since well before our independence was declared. And my mother's family, too, has deep American roots representing various social, political, and spiritual diasporas.
My family lore and mystery include numerous tales of revolutionaries, pioneers, early American educators, statesmen, industrialists, philanthropists, and even Indian captives. Many of you have probably read the works of one of my forebears, Laura Ingalls Wilder, who recounts what life was like for people who headed into great unknowns to make familiar places for themselves, a sense of home, community, belonging.
Other well-known American ancestors were DeHarts and Boones, people whose vigor and muscle are legendary in the colonies and at various points along the frontier.
And of this stock in my stew, I am ever proud.
But every American started as an immigrant, and along the lines leading to me are other sorts of immigrants, too.
Tomorrow, millions of people across this land, will be celebrating our nation’s freedom. Many will be marking Independence Day by going to see the fireworks, watching Fourth of July parades, or just having a barbecue and enjoying time together with their family or friends.
One of the things I began doing a few years ago on the Fourth of July was to call a very special person in my life and in the life of my family. His name is Paul Anderson. Had it not been for Paul and his family, my family and I would not have been able to emigrate in 1987 from Poland to the United States. So on every July 4, I call Paul and thank him for helping me and my family arrive safely and settle in this country.
I tell him that he’s had an important part to play in so many good things I’ve experienced over the past 26 years that I’ve been living here — including discerning a Franciscan vocation and becoming a friar.