|Faith leaders call for humane immigration reform|
United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño speaks at a Feb. 11 interfaith press conference on immigration in Washington. UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Feb. 12, 2009 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)
Rev. Jim Wallis calls for humane immigration reform.
People of faith must stand up for immigrants or “the moral fiber of this country will be torn beyond repair,” said United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño at the launching of a national interfaith campaign for humane immigration reform.
“As people of faith, we cannot and will not stand by in silence while young people die, families are separated, individual freedoms are ignored, and the immigrant community in the U.S. is treated unjustly and inhumanely,” she declared. “No more!”
Carcaño, bishop of the denomination’s Desert Southwest Annual (regional) Conference, joined two members of Congress and several religious leaders from diverse faiths in announcing the launch of “Prayer, Renewal and Action on Immigration” at a Feb. 11 press conference in the Capitol.
The campaign is designed to engage people of faith on the immigration reform debate. More than 100 faith communities will hold prayer vigils across the country during the Feb. 13-22 Congressional recess.
“It is really going to be a good President’s Day recess,” said U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has been an outspoken advocate of immigration reform. He said he was happy and excited to have the faith community actively involved in the movement for reform.
Gutierrez will be part of a congressional Hispanic caucus holding town hall meetings on comprehensive immigration reform in faith communities during the last weekend of February. “We are going to be in sanctuaries asking people to call President Barack Obama and the new Congress and tell them, ‘I am in the church praying,’” he added.
The human and civil rights of immigrants are being violated, Carcaño pointed out, citing the treatment of immigrant men by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio in her home state of Arizona.
Jim Winkler listens to speakers during
an interfaith press conference on immigration reform.
“ Just last week, 200 immigrant men in shackles and prison stripes were marched through the streets of Phoenix, Ariz. under armed guard to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence,” she said. “Apparently these immigrants were being sent to await deportation in this newly-created detention camp that brought them much human degradation and humiliation but brought much media attention to Sheriff Arpaio.”
She said Arpaio called himself an official participant in a federal policing program, 287(g), which allows a state and local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“What is clear is that his style of policing has created a climate of fear in our communities, unleashed a vicious wave of ethnic bashing, and shown a complete disregard for basic human rights,” she said. “Arizona does not stand alone in this shameful scene, for what is happening in Arizona is happening all across this country.”
Power of faith community
U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who is Japanese American, spoke of his personal experience about having the support of the faith community. It was faith organizations, he said, who spoke out against the incarceration of Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) has been an active advocate for immigration reform.
“ The power of your organization can be immense and can be a determining factor,” he said. “Immigrants will be the salvation of our country because when we draw from them we draw the strength, the history and language we sorely need as a nation to work globally with the rest of the world.”
The Rev. Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners, said immigration “is one of our issues.”
“When government officials tell us who we can and cannot help they are telling us about our ministry. They can’t do that. When they tell us not to do our ministry, we will tell them we plan to engage in civil disobedience.”
Other speakers at the press conference included Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Sister Eileen Campbell, councilor on the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; and the Rev. John Crestwell, minister of Davies Unitarian Universalist Church in Washington.
U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) spoke of his personal experience about having the support of the faith community.
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, sponsors of the press conference, is a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting humane immigration reform. More than 500 congregations have signed their platform that upholds family unity as a priority, along with a process for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status, protect workers, restore due process protections and facilitate immigrant integration.
In his acceptance of the Democratic nomination for president, Barack Obama said America is a country that understands a mother should not be separated from her children, Gutierrez noted. Yet many news reports show that the Bush administration did just that. “Government cannot promise to bring people out of the shadows of darkness … and then use that power to go out and deport people,” he said.
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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Bishop Minerva Carcano: “People of faith cannot stand by in silence.”
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