April 7, 2009
Last week, I spent two days at a Justice for Immigrants meeting in Mason, Ohio. The gathering brought together lay workers, church volunteers, and parish and diocesan staff. It was an interesting mix of ordinary people whose daily interactions with immigrants have inspired them to seek ways to do more and policy experts who spend time developing messages about immigration and the need for immigration reform.
The Justice for Immigrants campaign is an important tool that advocates for immigration reform and educates members of the faith community--particularly Catholics--about why they should support reform of our nation’s outdated and broken immigration laws.
It’s easy for those of us who work on this issue to list the reasons why immigration reform is necessary. But for those who are not as familiar with immigration, the task can seem daunting. JFI aims to help people talk about immigration reform by empowering Catholics and other people of faith to get the message out.
Here are some of JFI’s major points.
First, immigration reform will bring almost 12 million people out of the shadows. We can integrate them and stop their continued exploitation.
Second, immigration reform has a moral mandate. As people of faith, we believe in the dignity of the human person; if we are to live our faith, that belief must extend to immigrants. We also believe in the fair treatment of all persons. The fact that some immigrants may not have legal status is not a legitimate reason to exclude or treat them differently. They are our brothers and sisters.
Third, we cannot continue to separate families, which has all too frequently been a consequence of worksite and home raids. This raids-based enforcement strategy is dangerous and has proven ineffective. We must protect families. Rather than separating U.S.-born citizen children from their parents, we must work for system that recognizes the contributions of immigrants and allows them to come and work in a safe, humane and orderly manner. Our nation already benefits from the labor of immigrants. Shouldn’t our laws respect their contributions?
There are numerous practical reasons why immigration reform is needed. It is not surprising that once you start sharing them with your friends, neighbors, and even strangers they begin to see the logic, as well.
That’s what this meeting was about. It offered an educational space for those who want to know and do more.
Admittedly, not everyone agrees on what immigration reform should look like. This was particularly clear with the presence of protestors on the opening day of the meeting. Although they have a right to their opinion, we should all be able to agree that immigration reform is necessary--as CLINIC executive director Mark Franken pointed out in a recent blog entry. And this is a good way to start getting our message out: reform our immigration laws.
Melissa Williams is CLINIC's public affairs officer.