Some personal thoughts on Rep. Gutierrez's immigration bill

The following is cross-posted from God’s Politics and Faith and Immigration.

The room was hot and stifling and overcrowded, but the excitement was palpable as people gathered to witness the introduction of a new comprehensive immigration reform bill. I barely managed to squeeze in, edging through the throng of people who spilled into the hallways. And just in time.

A few moments later, a parade of Members of Congress filed in to cheers of “Yes, we can!” and “Sí, se puede!” from the immigrant families and members of clergy gathered behind the podium. And a few minutes later, flanked by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Progressive Caucus, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009.

In my involvement with Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, I’ve heard many stories of the fallout of a broken immigration system: families separated, seemingly endless waiting periods for legal immigration, undocumented immigrants afraid to report a crime for fear of being detained and deported. This is not what it looks like to love our neighbors or to care for the strangers among us.

As the son of naturalized American citizens, I’ve benefited from the rights and freedoms that my parents earned for me with years of their lives. I played no part in the process of their naturalization, but I’ve been able to appreciate and enjoy the blessings. And so I feel the added weight of responsibility that comes with privilege: knowing that any blessing that is bestowed is for the purpose that others may be blessed, and remembering that God will hold us accountable for what we do with what we have received (Luke 12:48).

In response to the introduction of CIR ASAP, CCIR issued a press release, including statements of support from national and local Christian leaders for the principles guiding the bill. While there remain many hurdles before comprehensive immigration reform is finally passed, for me this bill marks one more encouraging step in the journey toward fulfilling our biblical mandates to love our neighbors as ourselves and to care for the stranger among us.

Let’s hope we see the destination in 2010.

New Momentum for Immigration Reform

Cross-posted from God’s Politics.

Last week, Janet Napolitano delivered her first speech on immigration reform in her capacity as the Secretary of Homeland Security. While she denied that it marked the official beginning of the Obama Administration’s push for immigration reform — “it actually began months ago” — it is significant that up until this point, there had been a noticeable (and perhaps understandable, given the prominence of the health-care debate) dearth of comment from the White House.

Comprehensive immigration reform has, in the words of Secretary Napolitano, “been punted from year to year, from Congress to Congress, from administration to administration,” and the need for reform has not diminished in the slightest: immigrant families continue to be adversely affected by a dysfunctional immigration system, and employers willing to flout the law in order to hire cheap workers continue to undercut the labor market.

There are signs of hope: leaders in the law enforcement, business, and labor communities all recognize that comprehensive immigration reform is desperately needed in America; and people of faith on both sides of the political spectrum have stood up in support of humane immigration laws. But as we saw with the health-care debate, even a concerted recognition of the need for reform does not guarantee the necessary change.

As in the health-care debate, we are pushing not only for an end to unproductive and divisive rhetoric that exaggerates and distorts the facts, but also for real and comprehensive reform that emphasizes the value of every person — immigrant or otherwise – as made in the image of God and worthy of respect.

Tomorrow evening, we get to see another encouraging sign of the growing movement for comprehensive immigration reform: Rep. Luis Gutiérrez — who is spearheading the effort for reform on Capitol Hill — will be hosting a conference call, and will have a special message for people of faith who are engaged in this issue. Join with us in that conversation.

Links of the Day, October 15