Passionist reflections on immigration advocacy
(Fr. Ronan Nebold, CP and Br. Ed Hall, CP share their experience on attending the recent Ecumenical Advocacy Days event in DC where they advocated for Comprehensive Immigration Reform from the values of Catholic social teaching and Passionist spirituality.)
Fr. Ronan Newbold, CP:
This year Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) were, again, an occasion for serious thinking and conversion. What are we doing to the people who live in the USA? The first evening Bishop Minerva Carcano, of the United Methodist Church, spoke to us about how families are being separated with devastating results for children and our society. Sister Mary McCauley, BVM, spoke of the May 12th 2008, raid on 400 undocumented workers at an Agro-processor factory in Postville, Iowa. They were shackled, put on school buses and taken to detainment facilities by local police, state police and members of the National Guard. What are we doing to the people who live in the USA.
There are arguments against letting these undocumented people become documented; such as using our education system and health care system without paying a cent into them. They are accused of criminal activity along the Southern border. During this EAD, there could have been a better explanation of how these people really do pay into the education and health systems of our country by paying sales taxes every time they purchase something. But there was more than adequate explanation of how they are keeping our economy going. Moreover, without them, our economy would really begin to stagger. If all were documented, and signed into our income tax system, then education, health and retirement would not only be helped but would be able to expand to take care of the growing number of our elderly. The one figure I remember was this: if all of the undocumented were documented, $1.3 trillion would be added to our gross national product over the next ten years. Moreover, all of these people in the shadows would now come to light and policing of them would cease to be an expense.
Here is another thought. Some worry that if we do set up a system of documenting these people, a “billion” people from all over the world would want to come to the United States. Wrong. The United States is probably number 4 or 5 among nations that people would like to move to. Australia, New Zea land, Canada, and Switzerland are more likely to draw people from foreign lands due to their policies of peace and awareness of health in their governments.
The speech of Sister Helen Prejean (author of Dead Man Walking) was truly an occasion for conversion. Can we hear the cry of the poor? That is the question. Does their cry rank highest is our hearts? The people of Jesus’ time brought him to death. There is nothing that we can do about that. There is something we can do about the people who are dying trying to cross into our land, who are incarcerated, who are kept on the fringes of our society and who are the presence of God among us. Sister’s question remains: “Can we hear the cry of the poor?”
Br. Ed Hall, CP
Awareness of our millions of immigrants who are living in the shadows of our communities and our neighbors was brought home to my attention at the Ecumenical Advocacy meeting in Washington DC the weekend of the 20th of March. The realization that many who come to worship in our churches are living without protections and guarantees, because they do not yet possess legal status. I was encouraged that weekend with the passage of the health care reform bill for these living millions living in the shadows without health care coverage.
I was among 200,000 people along with Ronan Newbold, Chris Gibson and John Gonzalez on the mall in Washington DC for a Rally in favor of immigration reform legislation. People where there to spur Congress and the White House to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and offer its 10.8 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship this year against increasingly long odds.
We were warmed by bursts of sunshine; the crowd was peaceful and festive. The sounds of drums and American flags and posters filled the air. One could read placards that said, “Change takes Courage” and “Obama Don’t Forget Your Promise!” Rep. Luis Gutierrez(D-Ill) said “It’s time to let immigrants come of the shadows into the light and for America to embrace them and protect them.”
I felt hopeful and encouraged by this weekend. The fraternity and support of Chris, Ronan and John to continue to be committed and involved in this important issue of overhauling of immigration laws for the many who are in our neighborhoods and churches is hopeful to me.