Immigration Gets ‘Churchy’

“The future of immigration reform legislation rests with faith communities.” –Cardinal Mahony, the Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony … Continued

“The future of immigration reform legislation rests with faith communities.”
–Cardinal Mahony, the Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles

Cardinal Mahony spoke this week on a panel at the Center for American Progress on Faith Communities and Immigration Reform. The report released with the event quotes Kevin Applebee, director of Migration and Refugee Policy at the U.S. Coalition of Catholic Bishops. “Immigration has to become ‘churchy,” Or, some might say, biblical. Congressman Clyburn of South Carolina, who spoke alongside the Cardinal, quoted the Book of James. “Look out for the widows and orphans in your midst.”

Surprisingly, that seems to be happening. All over the place. In fact, there’s a map of where all this faith activism on immigration is taking place. In North Carolina, for example, a Thursday night Town Hall meeting was held where people told stories of their experiences as immigrants and helped people see them as the face of the neighbor. The event was held in a church. Why in a church? “What better place given the nature of the problem?” said one participant.

Sam Fulwood, a journalist and CAP Senior Fellow, spent months speaking to faith group after faith group who have just starting caring for immigrants because no one else is doing it. His writing is a collection of stories about what these groups, whether Protestant or Catholic, Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim, are just doing. They are not coordinated or part of one network. They are people who have just become fed up and have reached out to undocumented immigrants because of their faith commitments to caring for the neighbor.

The reason faith communities all across the nation have begun to engage in grassroots activism is because they are outraged by the treatment of their neighbors and friends. Media and politicians have played the fear card for so long now that the national conversation is deeply corrupted and distracted. Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Va., puts it bluntly, “I tell our people to turn off the radio.” There is a rise in hate crimes against immigrants according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Some times it is the harsh, criminalizing approach to the problem of illegal immigration that has catalyzed the faith response. The “wakeup call” came for many in the faith community with the House passage in of the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437) of 2005. This bill, authored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R. Wisc.) would have criminalized undocumented immigrants, and those who help them. Some in the religious community feared this meant even criminalizing pastoral care. The bill never became law.

Cardinal Mahony has commented H.R. 4437. “That bill was a God-send. It made it so absurd that it created a tremendous outpouring of recognition. This is a ridiculous piece of legislation that energized the immigrant and pro-immigrant communities. It was a defining moment.” That bill was, in fact, one of the matches that lit the fire of religious communities in their person-to-person, child-of-God to child-of-God alternative responses.

Gridlock in Washington has just pushed immigration issues back into the states. As Rabbi Moline has observed, “Criminalizing immigration reform is a cruel and unusual way to deal with the undocumented. It doesn’t solve anything and it breaks the budgets of communities that try it.”

So what are the solutions? We have to stop giving mixed signals. Our borders have two different and contradictory signs up: “Help Wanted” and “No Trespassing.” There is no regulated way to deal with need for workers. It’s a broken system and we need a comprehensive approach.

What happens if nothing happens? Suppose we just push it down the road? As the economy picks up, the demand for labor will be great. Cardinal Mahony observes that if you “Kick the can down the road too many times, the can becomes dented and it won’t go very far the next time you kick it.”

Faith communities are stepping up and confronting the fear-mongering. And they’re not preaching to the choir.

  • michaelbindner

    If the situation weren’t so tragic it would be funny. Illegal immigration comes about because largely Republican business owners demand right to work laws and immigration restrictions which encourage people working in the shadows. If undocumented workers were unionized, they would not be hired. If they could demand market wages and decent working conditions, there would be no demand for them.

  • cmarshdtihqcom

    I don’t like illegal immigration but I never thought about illegal immigration as a matter of life or death for the immigrants until I saw Earth 2100 on ABC about three months ago.Lucy is the hypothetical baby born in 2009 and her life is told in a series of animations. By 2030 or 2040, she is an EMT, and Mexico is desert because of global warming. Mexicans have fled to the militarized American border for their very survival. There has been a shooting and she has been called to take the dead and wounded away.Incidentally, Las Vegas is also slated to become desert as well as soon as those aquifers dry up. California can escape that fate by building desalination plants by the ocean. Mexico can’t afford them, and Las Vegas is too far inland.Has it happened already in Mexico? The Fire Next Time was an NBC movie miniseries in 1993 set in about the present day. Mexico (or Texas) was depicted as desert with wars over water.Is it happening already in Mexico and are we refusing to see?Look, I wish we could eliminate American unemployment. We came close during the second World War 1941-1945, when immigration was restricted between 1924 and 1965. We were forced to confront sexist prejudices and opened doors to women (Rosie the Riveter), and maybe also to minorities as well, at least temporarily while 14 million men were away in combat. I wish we could be forced to confront prejudices again and hire from our Native American reservations, our inner cities, Appalachia, the Pacific Northwest, every forgotten corner of America.I wish we could be forced to rely on American labor, American raw materials, American manufacturing, American money (if any is left), American skills, and American ideas. By the way, American includes lawfully admitted permanent residents and naturalized citizens, yes, even Hispanics.Are we willing though, to stop illegal immigration even if it becomes a matter of life and death?

  • cmarshdtihqcom

    If Mexico and some of Central America do turn into adobe thanks to global warming, about the only thing people can do about it is a) cut their birth rate because kids will die first in famine and drought conditions and/or b) mass population migration.It has been suggested at that the United States can only feed about two thirds (200 million) of its people, at least without the input of petroleum. I am not sure if the United States could absorb a lot of people under very many circumstances.It is clear it takes four things to sustain agricultural output: water, topsoil, energy (petroleum), and climate. We are poor stewards of fresh water, topsoil, and petroleum: the groundwater and petroleum are going fast, and the topsoil blows and washes away. At present we subsidize 10 calories of petroleum energy for each food calorie. Climate is the one thing we have least control over. It could change because of anything: a meteor, comet, sunspots, supervolcano, thermohaline ocean currents, limited nuclear war, gamma ray burst, actual existence of a tenth planet in the solar system on collision course…..But when population is increasing every day, just pray nothing disrupts agricultural output. Hunger is a poor way to die. Illness and war are not very nice either.

  • cyber-man

    S. B. TootsyRoll, what-ever your-name-is;Interesting!? “… Rests with faith communities …” Hmmmmm.

  • cyber-man

    Oooops.The Next-New “SANCUARY” and not New York City & CO.?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Jews have a very long history of caring for immigrants, beginning with the first great wave of Eastern European refugees from Russian Orthodox terror. Victims of Catholic, Lutheran terror, “Communist” (i.e., Catholic, Lutheran, Russian Orthodox) terror continued to be helped, and this remains the case today.It is good to see that other religions have followed suit. What would not be good is for said religions to seek converts.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    If the situation weren’t so tragic it would be funny. Illegal immigration comes about because largely Republican business owners demand right to work laws and immigration restrictions which encourage people working in the shadows. If undocumented workers were unionized, they would not be hired. If they could demand market wages and decent working conditions, there would be no demand for them.Posted by: michaelbindner |What say, folks? Cuz without them, we’d all be dead. Anyone on this thread wanna volunteer for the cause?

  • cyber-man

    S.B.T.:Example: Just because SECULAR protected places like ‘NEW YORK CITYs” and their Authorities can locally protect Illegal human Aliens from “ICE” (the FEDS); Does not mean that the “CHURCHES” (or Any) can compete [Market Share] for those ‘knowingly being Illegal Mexicans, Ukranians, Chinese… and expect to collect their tithes ‘Tax-Free’?This is UNETHICAL not only IMMORAL acts! It’s not like saving JEWS in Europe from the Holocausting Nazi’s or harboring George Washington (May he rest in Peace) from the British or French et al.Reasoning: A True Americanized and Authorized or respected THEOLOGIAN (Revvi, Immam, Priest…) CHURCH, SINOGOGUE, MOSQUE, TEMPLE or House or Stadium of Worships, living & enriching themselves off the U.S. Tax Payers via “THE 1913, 501(c) (3) LAW ” must tell All Illegals of their Congregation or not, that Being Undocumented in Righteous America is a CRIME (not against Humanity but) against Uncle-Sams intent like gods intent!Yes, WE agree with blogger “USAPDX” Stay out of SECULAR BIZ! Ps: But the most Righteous thing All U.S.A. Churches and their Theologians can do, not Hope, is to tell All known Illegal (or Confessing ones) that tell them illegals that They “MUST” (SHOULD is not good enough) to Participate , honestly in the up & Coming “U.S. CENS-U.S. 2010” Then this will make the “Survey” Statistically most accurate and thus Each “COUNTY” , in All 50 States will bennefit; includes those Illegals; especially their Children!

  • cyber-man

    upppps.On “SANCUARY CITIES” and Protections of.

  • cyber-man

    Meant “SANCTUARY” (City’s)

  • cyber-man

    MAM:The “HEALTHCARE-DEBATE” should simply Waite AFter the U.S. CENSUS 2010; This, not to distant “STATISTIC?” will have Majical outcomes/results & more Savings, for ALL Dear AMERICAN’s (Legal & Illegal)! And best of All: President Obama & CO., Will Be Re-Elected via a “LAND-SLIDE”!Such is “Predicted, slightly Prophecied?” IF & only IF His Honorable Brother Slamin-Dunkin BAMA waits after the U.S. CENSUS-2010 gallops around the Blesseth Continent of U.S.A & FAMILY!

  • cmarshdtihqcom

    There was a sermon a few months back making clear that we were to provide love and basic support (food, necessities) to anyone, including an illegal stranger. It aroused the passion in the assistant pastor (the pastor’s husband), and his last words were sharp and directed apparently to some congregationalists whom he knew disagreed with the message.Chris Marsh

  • usapdx