June 11, 2009
Christian Activists Push for Immigration Reform
Several Christian activists don't want to see immigration reform get left behind the administration's economic and health care concerns.
In a press conference on Wednesday, members of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR), a nonpartisan coalition of churches and other organizations, expressed urgency that immigration reform happen this year. "Every single day that we wait on immigration reform is more suffering we are inflicting on undocumented people," said Jim Wallis, President and CEO of Sojourners. "This is a matter of faith for us. The way we treat the stranger, the scriptures say, is the way we treat Jesus in himself. And the stranger, in the face and form of undocumented people, is not being treated very well."
Their objective might be challenged in the House by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and in the Senate by Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont), who want to add same-sex partners in the same category as spouses in new immigration legislation. Senator Leahy told The New York Times it was "a matter of fairness," while Honda said in the San Francisco Chronicle that "it's a civil rights issue."
Politico reported that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is withdrawing its support from the bill over the issue of gay rights. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told Politico that the addition of gay rights language was a "slap in the face to those of us who have fought for years for immigration reform." However, on Wednesday, Rodriguez indicated that the group's unity is their greatest asset when he said that "the strength of the coalition is stronger than anything that may arise in Congress."
The coalition released a Statement of Principles Wednesday and a new website, emphasizing three core policies for immigration reform legislation: a pathway to citizenship, a guest worker program, and border protection stipulations. The coalition emphasizes the treatment of every human being as made in the image of God, regardless of their documented status, but the coalition does not seek to dictate how particular churches respond to difficult situations.
A meeting at the White House scheduled for June 17 is intended to open discussion on immigration policy between House and Senate leaders from both parties. Although President Obama has stated his intention to address problems within the immigration system this year, many, such as Senate Majority Lleader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), doubt whether anything will change this year due to the already full legislative calendar.
Christianity Today has offered an editorial take on how to handle immigration.