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Home for the holidays

Faith community calls for immigration reform

December 3, 2009

Louisville

With the holiday season in full swing, faith leaders across the United States have come together to campaign for immigration reform, focusing on keeping families together.

The “Home for the Holidays” campaign is a “major escalation of the faith community’s efforts to press Congress to pass immigration reform that keeps families together,” said Katie Paris, program and communications director for Faith in Public Life.

Faith in Public Life works to advance faith in the public square as a positive and unifying force. It hosted the Nov. 16 conference call launching Home for the Holidays. Participating in the call were Catholic, Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Jewish faith leaders.

The campaign is three-pronged:

  • 250,000 postcards to be sent to Congress by major denominations, faith-based organizations and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Large-scale events like prayer services and town hall meetings in Arkansas, Iowa, Ohio and Texas
  • Statewide call-in days to Congress in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Arkansas, Missouri, South Carolina and North Carolina

The campaign was launched on the heels of an announcement by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano that the U.S. administration will move forward on immigration reform in early 2010.

“Immigration reform is a major issue to the faith community,” said the Rev. Steve Copley, director of Arkansas Justice for Our Neighbors. “It’s a biblical issue,” he said, referring to Jesus’ commands to show compassion to strangers.

Welcoming the stranger is mentioned 36 times in the Torah, said Vic Rosenthal, executive director of Jewish Community Action in St. Paul, Minn. Minnesota has large populations of Hmong, Somali, Liberian and Hispanic immigrants.

“In many of these cases, immigrants have dealt with civil war and other issues,” Rosenthal said.

The Justice for Immigrants campaign of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops works to educate Catholics and the public about the scriptural references to immigration to work toward reform. Catholics are involved in immigration reform for three top reasons, said Antonio Cube, national manager of the campaign. The church has longstanding immigrant traditions, immigration ministries and a presence in immigrants’ sending and receiving countries.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) created the Office of Immigration Issues after a resolution passed at the 216th General Assembly (2004). Among its duties is providing information and resources to the church and middle governing bodies, advocating for immigration reform and identify resources for pastoral care for immigration issues.

People of faith care about family unity and want that issue to be prioritized, said Jen Smyers of Church World Service. She spoke of a bill called the Reuniting Families Act, which is now in legislation in the Senate and House.

“The faith community across the country has poignantly felt the impact of our broken immigration system,” she said, adding that there needs to be a workable pathway to legal status for immigrants.

“It’s really essential ... that these bills are introduced as soon as possible,” she said.

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