North Jersey Parishioners Speak Out for Humane Immigration Reform

HNP Communications Around the Province

PATERSON, N.J. — Earlier this month, the St. Bonaventure Church community here took steps to speak out for immigration reform.

On April 7, four members of the parish — Juliana Espejo, Kathleen Dubbels, Sr. M. Jean Amore, SMIC, and Christopher VanHaight, OFM— presented more than 80 signed postcards from parishioners to the New Jersey offices of U.S. Congressman William Pascrell and Senators Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez. These postcards, Christopher said, are part of the U.S. Bishops Justice for Immigrants campaign and call for smart and humane immigration reform.

The Justice for Immigrants website states: “Specifically, we have emphasized the need for 1) a pathway to citizenship for the 11-12 million undocumented in the country; 2) reforms to our family immigration system; 3) the creation of legal avenues for migrants to come here legally and safely to work; 4) the restoration of due process protections for immigrants; and 5) steps to address the root causes of migration, or the push factors.”

Chris added that all communities represented by the Province’s Hispanic Ministry Committee were participating in the postcard campaign. A sample card is available on the Justice for Immigrants website.

In Pompton Lakes, N.J., the community of St. Mary’s Parish is also active in advocating for immigration reform.

Jackie Schramm, the parish’s director of social justice ministry, reports that the community has been actively pursuing immigration reform over the last month through their group People of Peace.

She said, “People of Peace works with First Friends/IRATE, a non-profit that deals with the injustices that immigrant asylum seekers experience at Elizabeth Detention Center in Newark, N.J.”

Shramm said the center detains all immigrants seeking political asylum arriving in Newark Airport. “They have not committed any crimes, and are detained indefinitely. The only ones who get legal counsel are those who First Friends and other support groups provide pro bono.”

On April 20, two members of First Friends spoke to St. Mary’s JustFaith group about the situation. Schramm said members of the parish’s Hispanic ministry also provided transportation to the March 21 immigration rally in Washington, D.C.