Welcoming Our Immigrant Brothers and Sisters

Fran Eskin-Royer Around the Province

Holy Name Province is working to express strong support for comprehensive immigration reform and to promote the passage of a robust senate bill.

With an initial version of the bill expected after Easter, ongoing grassroots advocacy for immigration reform is vital. The JPIC office continues to promote Justice For Immigrants’ postcard campaign as a means to express a pro-comprehensive immigration reform position.

Advocacy Visits to Senators
In addition, HNP ministries in states with senators charged with writing the senate bill have made advocacy visits to the senators’ home offices.

For meeting talking points, ministries drew from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s “Elements Necessary for a Just Immigration Reform” and “Family Immigration Principles.” The groups used the letter written by the English-speaking Conference of JPIC animators to the president and other congressional leaders as their “leave behind,” a written account of their Franciscan position on comprehensive immigration reform.

Joseph Kotula, OFM, along with John C. Coughlin, OFM, and Robert Struzynski, OFM, from Mt. Irenaeus in West Clarksville, N.Y., led the series with a meeting at Sen. Charles Schumer’s Buffalo, N.Y., office on March 4.

HNP Hispanic Ministry Committee chair Christopher Posch, OFM, along with Ronald Pecci, OFM, postulant Junior Joseph, and two parishioners from St. Paul’s Parish in Wilmington, Del., pictured above, met with staff from Sen. Chris Coons’s office in Wilmington on March 15. The team emphasized that essential to comprehensive immigration reform are accessible pathways to citizenship as well as maintenance and restoration of family unity, including the chance for deported parents to be united with their children. Staffers were sympathetic to concerns raised in the compelling testimony from the lay immigrant partners and said they had not previously considered including provisions for reuniting deported parents with their children.

St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford, Conn., sent a pro-comprehensive immigration reform contingent to Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s office for a joint meeting arranged to bring together like-minded area groups.Cidouane Joseph, OFM, and two parishioners, along with representatives of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s office of Catholic social justice ministry, spoke face-to-face with the senator and his staff.

“It was a wonderful meeting where everyone had a chance to express their concerns [about the current immigration situation],” Cid reported. “The senator shared his great desire to finds ways to work with us to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.”

The Hartford visit, also on March 15, coincidentally coincided with a “Lent Without Borders” vigil protesting deportations, held outside the city’s Ribicoff Federal Building and Courthouse.

Future Meetings
The JPIC Office is working to schedule meetings for additional HNP immigration advocates with Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Pendleton, S.C., office and Sen. Schumer’s New York City office. Sens. Graham, Schumer, Coons and Blumenthal serve on the senate judiciary committee and, as such, are drafting the senate immigration bill for floor discussion.

HNP ministries in other states also have been active in immigration reform efforts. Six representatives from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh and Immaculate Conception Church in Durham organized a video conference with North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan’s office. Like the others, this group also advocated for the inclusion in the senate bill of the provisions outlined in the U.S. Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants Campaign. The stance rejects the establishment of a two-tier society, and supports the full inclusion of undocumented immigrants at all levels, recognizing them as dignified and productive members of society. Participants from St. Francis of Assisi included JPIC local contact Frank Lesko and Mark Reamer, OFM, pastor. JPIC local contact Maryann Crea represented Immaculate Conception.

“There is a tendency to become complacent because the tide seems to be turning in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but we must stay steadfast in our commitment to immigrants,” said Russell Testa, director of the HNP JPIC Office. “Although there is growing public support, the reality is that opponents to immigration reform are significantly more vocal. Immigrants will lose and remain in the shadows if people of good remain silent.” Visits like those from HNP ministries and other actions in support of immigrants are imperative.

Show Solidarity
Opportunities to show solidarity with immigrants at this key time remain. HNP ministries and others are encouraged to consider:
•   Bringing a delegation to the April 10th immigration rally in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is holding a Mass for participating Catholics prior to the demonstrations to stir their awareness of the Spirit’s presence during the rally.
•   Re-posting the link to the Justice for Immigrant’s Electronic Postcard Campaign in bulletins and newsletters, on websites or in other communications media. Sending electronic messages is a quick and easy way for voters to make their positions known to their congressional representatives.
•   Making phone calls to key senators after Easter. The JPIC Office will be joining with others from the Catholic community to promote this call-in campaign. Information from the JPIC Office on this effort is forthcoming.

In addition to supporting ministry advocacy work on immigration reform, the JPIC Office is working to provide educational resources and opportunities. On March 7, Testa, pictured behind the image above, gave a talk on Franciscan roots for immigration reform work as well as a political analysis of the current situation to more than 100 students, faculty members and others at St. Bonaventure University.

Many people believe that 2013 represents the best opportunity for realizing Comprehensive Immigration Reform in some years. Franciscans, with their long history of welcoming the pilgrim and stranger — our immigrant brothers and sisters — must continue to do all possible to help bring justice for the other.

 Fran Eskin-Royer is senior staff associate in the Province’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Silver Spring, Md.