A couple of months back a team of us from River City (including Carlos Ruiz, associate pastor, and Juanita Irizarry, Community Trust Fund) sponsored a gathering of Evangelical pastors (Rev. Pedro Windsor, Rev. Rafael Maldonado, among others) that led a corporate confession and call for renewal of the existing immigration system. As a group we recognized that there are differing perspectives on how to fix the system that we have, yet were in unity that it must be fixed. The existing system is broken at best, and inhumane at worst (as we are seeing vividly in Arizona right now). After the event I had a great conversation with Manya Brachear, a respected journalist at the Chicago Tribune. I haven’t thought about it much since, but was informed today by one of our River City members (thanks Christine) that some of the conversation was included in an article she just did. She entitled the piece, “Clergy condemn anti-immigration law, demand reform” and it can be found here. The full article is included below:
Earlier this year the Rev. Daniel Hill, senior pastor at River City Community Church in Humboldt Park, expressed concern about the tone of the immigration debate in some congregations and the silence from other corners of the religious community.
Then along came Arizona.
Today, a number of Chicago’s religious leaders will gather at Holy Name Cathedral to condemn the controversial immigration law and demand reform.
But are they too late?
“I lament the fact that in 2010 we are just starting to get into the game,” Hill told The Seeker earlier this year after he and other pastors from the Christian Community Development Association held a vigil in Chicago calling for comprehensive immigration reform. The National Association of Evangelicals had recently taken a strong pro-immigration reform stance that was drawing fire for being too liberal.
“I confess as an evangelical Christian that we haven’t been as hospitable. I feel remorseful that we haven’t pushed harder to talk about this in a dignified way,” he said. “I’m starting to get a little more vocal about it from the pulpit.”
Since The Seeker’s conversation with Hill, Arizona got vocal too, passing a tough immigration enforcement law. Chicago’s religious leaders convened at Holy Name Cathedral today to condemn the southwestern state’s response.
“We at AJC believe that the best way to make the Jewish community stronger is to make America stronger. And that is what immigration does,” American Jewish Committee-Chicago’s executive director Dan Elbaum said in a statement. “We need comprehensive immigration reform to strengthen our workforce and economy, give a measure of relief to the millions living in the shadows, and add to the continuing diversity that forms this great nation.”
There, the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago also released the following statement:
We are deeply concerned that this largely immigrant nation, representing the world’s rich diversity of cultures and religions, should be found indicting the broad base of today’s immigrants as threats to the nation’s security, economic health, and character.
Equally troubling are realities that fuel the nation’s economy with cheap, unprotected labor, benefiting primarily those of means while condemning those without influence or power to unconscionable wages and working conditions, and aggravating conflict between groups at the bottom of the nation’s economic ladder.
Legislation is needed that:
. Protects the human rights of all persons, irrespective of citizenship.
. Does not criminalize immigrants or those who provide humanitarian aid to immigrants.
. Establishes provisions for essential border security.
. Creates minimum wage provisions for all workers.
. Requires the documenting of immigrant employment and compensation.
. Provides pathways to citizenship based on a record of employment, payment of all reasonably due taxes, and good behavior.
. Encourages family unification.
. Promotes U.S. foreign policies that reduce incentives for illegal immigration.
The challenge is complex and easily becomes divisive. There are no simple or partial solutions. Nevertheless, national, comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue. We call upon our political leaders to act.
Of equal importance, we call upon the members of our religious communities to examine how the teachings of their traditions inform the debate about immigration policy and to bring the social and moral values from their religious heritage to the public discussion and decision making. People of faith cannot be silent. It is time both to speak and to act.
Here’s what our guest bloggers had to say about immigration reform:
Rev. Alice Hunt: Love thy immigrant
James Kirk Wall: Less fighting, more thinking
The Rev. Douglas Sharp: Aliens and citizens