WASHINGTON, D.C. (Originally reported by Church World Service)-As Congress works to reach a deal that will return the U.S. government to service, top national faith leaders joined Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D- Calif.) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) on Tuesday, October 9, in calling for bold steps in the House to pass immigration reform that keeps families together and creates a path to citizenship.
Immediately following the press conference, top national leaders and faith advocates fanned out across Capitol Hill to meet with legislators. Top faith leaders met with Leader Nancy Pelosi, while Speaker John Boehner, Leader Eric Cantor and Representative Paul Ryan rejected meetings with the high-level religious leaders, the CWS President of the agency’s Board of Directors.
While the meetings with some House leadership were rejected, the religious leaders, immigrant activists and others still went to the members’ offices to meet and pray in the hopes of finding a way forward on immigration reform.
Rep. Denham said immigration reform is not a partisan issue. “This is an American issue we have got to fix. If we are going to contribute to the greatness of our country, immigration is part of that solution… It is an economic driver that will help us to solve our fiscal crisis… But it is also a moral issue. It is a personal issue for me because it not only affects my family, it affects all of our families.”
In Boehner, Cantor and Ryan’s offices, the advocates met with Congressional staff and individuals shared testimonies of how immigration reform had impacted their families. The faith leaders then closed the meeting in prayer.
American Baptist Churches USA General Secretary A. Roy Medley gave the following prayer at the event:
O God, we speak of our country as One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all but we come to you today because liberty is threatened and justice is an orphan. We cry out to you for you are the defender of the alien, a shelter for the dispossessed, a mighty rock in a weary land. We lift our voices this morning for dreams deferred and hope held hostage; for families divided and sojourners incarcerated. We pray for legislators whose intransigence is breaking the backs of the poor and the immigrant.
Raise up within their ranks those with an uncommon heart for the common good, with vision that sees past the next election and moral courage that isn’t subservient to the next poll. Fill their hearts with compassion and give them a belly full of courage that freedom’s bell might ring in welcome in every corner, every hamlet, every village, every city of our land. Make us again what we have always been: a haven for those seeking a better life.
Strengthen the hands and hearts of those who join with us today in petitioning congress and in nonviolent protest of injustice. May their trust in you and in the basic fairness of this country be rewarded.
In your name we pray.
“House Leaders must listen to the calls of our moral and faith leaders to act in a bipartisan manner to fix our country’s broken immigration system,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee. “Ultimately we need a fair and humane system that reflects our values, keeps our country safe, and lets immigrants aspire to become Americans so our culture and economy prosper. It can be done if we are allowed to work together.”
“Today even in the midst of this shutdown, we bring our call for justice to Capitol Hill because the crisis of our families, our communities and congregations continues. Immigration reform simply cannot wait. The time for solutions is now,” said the Rev. John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service. “And when congress decides to end this shutdown our national leaders will need to prove that they can work together for the greater good of the nation and pass a just and humane immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship.”
Leaders of American Baptist Churches USA, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist traditions stressed the urgency for immigration reform.
Rep. Denham said, “The efforts of the faith-based community have been instrumental in keeping immigration reform in the forefront of the national debate. The time for top-to-bottom reform is now.” He told the more than 200 faith leaders gathered, “Don’t allow Congress to lose its focus on immigration.”
Later in the day, the Clergy and participants joined tens of thousands of people for the Camino Americano rally and concert in Washington, D.C.
Tuesday’s actions on Capitol Hill came as part of Church World Service’s Global Summit on Immigration Reform in Washington D.C., which brought together nearly 300 faith leaders, immigrants and refugees from 39 states representing more than 18 faith traditions and 37 organizations. The day’s action follows significant faith community participation in the National Day of Dignity and Respect October 5 at more than 130 marches and rallies across the country.
Founded in 1946, Church World Service is an international relief and development agency and 1 of 10 organizations that resettles refugees for the U.S. Department of State. American Baptist Churches USA is a Member Communion of Church World Service.
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