A new day: immigration and health care

I really ought to be going to sleep right now–I’ve been up since early this morning, and need to be up in just a few hours again for work. But I thought it’d be best to get my thoughts down while the figurative iron is still hot.

A lot has happened in the last twenty-four hours.

This morning, I led worship at Sojourners/Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform‘s prayer service. It was an honor for me to sing the songs of God with the people of God, including guests from Washington state, California, New York, Arizona and a crew from Wheaton College who’d driven through the night to get here.

In the afternoon, I headed down to the National Mall for March FOR America, a massive rally–somewhere between 100,000 to 500,000, depending on who you ask–in support of just and humane immigration reform, which was preceded by a stirring interfaith service (also on the Mall).

To walk through the throngs of people of all different ages and colors, immigrants or descended from immigrants or friends of immigrants, was a glimpse for me of the vision in Revelation 7:9, where “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” In that vision, every knee bowed before the Lamb. In this present, people came together to show their commitment and support for comprehensive immigration reform, for just and humane legislation that kept families together. In standing with my immigrant brothers and sisters, in sharing our stories and our energy, in hearing not only Members of Congress but President Obama as well reaffirm their commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform this year, my spirit was stirred and greatly encouraged.

(For a summary of the current state of our immigration system, check out this excellent piece from the Immigration Policy Center.)

And tonight, I saw history made as Congress passed comprehensive health care reform that provides coverage for 32 million more Americans and reduces the deficit by over $100 billion over the next 10 years and $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years. Which seems pretty win-win for me. It is not a perfect bill; it will require adjustments and tweaks. But it is a step, and a good step. As the President said in his address, shortly before midnight, “This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction.”

(See news coverage from the NY Times, BBC News and Al Jazeera. And for a summary of what the bill does, you can check out CNN.)

One of the most striking moments, though, was an unexpected one. My friend Liz, who is one of my favorite people in the world and a kindred spirit on so many levels, posted on her Facebook status that today’s health care vote meant that her fiancé could never be denied health insurance on the basis of his diabetes. And that brought it home for me. I know the power of story; I recognize that statistics only go so far in a persuasive argument; I appreciate the importance of putting a face to every single number. I’ve helped people share their stories and heard many of them. But Liz’s joy brought joy to me on a very personal level.

Yes, we can.

UPDATE (3/22/10): Here are 10 immediate benefits of the health care legislation.

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