Immigration: The Struggle for Justice Marches On

Russell Testa Features

If you watch or read the news, you cannot miss the fact that immigration reform is a top-tier political issue. We have known this in our HNP ministries for a number of years, but now the larger political and social arena is waking up.

Over the past couple of weeks, this movement has been a significant part of the JPIC Office work. Last week, I visited every Senate office from a state where we have HNP ministries. Overall, there was a good reception of the message that we need real reform that does not punish immigrants and allows them a humane pathway to citizenship. Many staffers in the offices commented that they had heard from many friars and PIMs. This made my role very easy in reinforcing that we are concerned and actively working for real immigration reform.

In the evening of April 6, the Senate seemed poised to pass sweeping legislation, which, on the whole, was not too bad from a social justice point of view. Unfortunately, by the next morning, politics and the upcoming mid-term elections took over and sabotaged passage of the bill, at least before the Easter congressional recess.

Just as it was a bi-partisan effort to create the potential for passing the legislation, it seems to have been a bi-partisan effort to sabotage it. The Democratic Senate leadership figured no bill was better for the elections, as it would hang the truly inhuman House bill H.R. 4437 around the necks of the Republicans. The conservative Republicans played to a part of their base that holds strong xenophobic and fear-based anti-immigrant sentiments. They figured that if a bill were passed that allowed a pathway to citizenship, their supporters would not vote in the November 2006 election. By Friday night, it appeared as though immigration reform was a “dead issue,” not to arise until after the 2006 elections at the earliest.

The next piece of the puzzle is the multitude of rallies this past Sunday and Monday. Millions of immigrants and their supporters took to the streets in rallies all across the U.S. There were HNP friars and PIMs participating in rallies held in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. More than 30 parishioners from St. Camillus attended the Washington, D.C., rally and Joe Nangle went with more than 100 people from his new ministry in Virginia. Jud Weiksnar, along with 20 parishioners from Camden, went to the rally in Philadelphia. The community organization, Voces Sin Fronteras, associated with the ministries in Wilmington, Del., took more than 500 people to Philadelphia.

[Jud Weiksnar adds that a high point of the rally in Philadelphia was watching Chris Posch on the stage, leading a rousing version of “This Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land” for the crowd of about 6,000 people.]

The spirit of the rallies was how immigrants were able to find a sense of their own power and ability to affect change. These rallies were strong exclamation points that the issue of immigration reform is not going away.

This brings us to look at what are the next steps:

  1. We need to keep the pressure up on the Senate to address immigration reform immediately. Please call, fax or e-mail your Senators in the next two weeks. Give them the message: “The Senate must pass comprehensive immigration reform like that in Senate Bill S-2454, The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (CIRA). Please move this bill to consideration on the Senate floor immediately after the Easter Recess.” Between the rallies and the pressure like this, we can help create enough energy to push for legislation.
  2. Stay tuned for future updates in HNP Today. Depending upon if the Senate addresses immigration reform legislation, we will let you know the next steps.

Remember, even if you have already contacted your Senators on immigration reform, it does not hurt to repeat it. They need to know of your commitment to humane immigration reform.

In the meantime, we will all continue to pray that the joy and power of the Resurrection will move the hearts of our elected officials to do the right thing. Thanks as always for all you do to live out our commitment to Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.