WASHINGTON — To support and raise awareness of comprehensive immigration reform, the HNP Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation is sponsoring several events throughout the next few months.
Russell Testa, director of the Province’s JPIC Office, encourages friars and their partners-in-ministry to consider participating in the following:
• Web conference at 1 p.m. (EST) on Sept. 14, being held in coordination with the Franciscan Action Network and Justice for Immigrants.
• Facilitator training, Nov. 6 in Raleigh, N.C., and Dec. 4 in Providence, R.I., on organizing and hosting successful conversations on immigration reform.
“Franciscans have a particular call to be mediators of dialogue,” Testa said. “This role is especially needed when a difficult issue like immigration reform comes to the forefront. The JPIC Office is working with Catholic Relief Services to host the two training sessions.
Testa is also urging Franciscans to write their local legislators about supporting an act for the Development Relief and Education of Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, a bill that would make it possible for young people who are in the U.S. without legal documentation to attend college and to join the military. By doing so, they could attain U.S. citizenship, said Testa.
“Because Franciscan ministries in Holy Name Province have asserted that support for our immigrant brothers and sisters is a high priority, we compiled information about how to help,” said Testa. “The only piece of legislation that might pass Congress this year is the DREAM Act.” Information on how to contact a legislator is available on FAN’s website.
Significance of the DREAM Act
“This important piece of legislation could positively affect many in our ministries, especially in our two colleges,” he said in a recent e-mail to friars. “I cannot stress how important this DREAM Act advocacy work is. The DREAM Act is a first step to comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not get this legislation passed, the prospect for fuller reform will be all the more difficult.” He encourages Franciscan-spirited people to help prepare for possible state-level struggles on immigration.
“We know of at least 22 states in which there has been some level of discussion about enacting legislation similar to Arizona’s law,” said Testa, who has worked recently with Justice for Immigrants, an organization of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, America’s Voice, Franciscan Action Network and other immigration advocacy groups, to determine why the Comprehensive Immigration Reform was not passed.
“What happens in these states will depend greatly on the result of the federal lawsuit against the Arizona law. If you are in Delaware, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina or Virginia, please pay particular attention to local immigration discussions in your area,” he said.
“We have a limited opportunity to make some real changes in support of our immigrant brothers and sisters. This priority from our HNP Strategic Plan is within our grasp.”
This summer, Testa also conducted two workshops on immigration. They were held July 10 and 11 at St. Francis Prayer Center in Stoneville, N.C.
The JPIC director, who has been in his position since the summer of 2000, routinely communicates through print, Internet, telephone and live programs about JPIC programs. Recently, Testa has been meeting with the JPIC Directorate, the Hispanic Ministry Committees and other partners to develop a strategy for effective action on immigration reform. The JPIC Office has also been working with some of the HNP friars to determine a Franciscan-inspired response to the growing anti-Muslim activity in the United States, Testa said.
Earlier this summer, enhancements were made to the Justice and Peace page of the HNP website. “Stay tuned for more features that will be coming to the HNP website soon,” Testa said. “In particular, a way to link to a variety of the JPIC Actions of direct service, education and action occurring in our HNP-sponsored ministries.”
Testa said he welcomes ideas and questions about immigration and other timely topics. He can be reached by phone (202-527-7561) or e-mail.
— Jocelyn Thomas is HNP’s director of communications.