Immigration reform: Will we see it in 2013? That’s the burning question on everyone’s mind this year.
A complicated debate and legislative process lie ahead. Here to decipher the headlines for you every Monday is THE UPDATE, a weekly blog series whose panel of experts will analyze how recent events affect the prospects for real reform. The panelists will offer an insider’s view of what’s happening right now on Capitol Hill, bolstered by their decades of experience with immigration reform and the legislative process.
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Given the most recent developments, are we getting any closer to immigration reform? Here’s what the panelists have to say:
Mary Giovagnoli, Director, Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council
It’s hard sometimes, to figure out how to make immigration reform a priority for the country when we are facing major challenges this fall, including the proper response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, another budget battle, and yet another debt ceiling debate. These pressing matters will consume a lot of time and attention, but this simply means that we need to use that time to continue to build the growing case—and the popular support—for immigration reform. August recess is an excellent example of making good use of time. Although many hoped that the House would quickly take up immigration reform before recess, when it was clear that this wouldn’t happen people put their energies into organizing a massive campaign to bring House Members on board. During the five weeks or so of recess, over 1, 194 events took place in 41 different states, more than 600,000 petitions were delivered to the Speaker of the House calling for immigration reform, and thousands of people visited and called their Members of Congress. Twenty-five House Republicans are now on record supporting legalization for undocumented immigrants that includes a path to citizenship. Diligence, hard work, and the belief that we can make this country live up to its principles are making a difference—every day. We need to go into this fall period with the belief that we can make immigration reform happen. If we don’t, then we have already lost.
Folabi Olagbaju, National Grassroots Director, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Last week, LIRS had the great opportunity of joining the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)’s Gulf Coast Synod in their Immigration Reform Prayer vigils on August 28 and 29 in Houston and Brenham, respectively. The prayer vigils were organized to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The August 28 prayer vigil was held at the Zion Lutheran Church in Houston and the August 29 vigil was at the Christ Lutheran Church in Brenham. About 100 people collectively attended both events. A large contingent of pastors took part in the Brenham prayer vigil. The order of service was presided over by Rev. Michael Rinehart, Bishop of the Gulf Coast Synod of the ELCA. We see mobilizations of this type as evidence that fair and compassionate immigration form is becoming more widely sought by people from coast to coast, and a sign that pressure is building that Congress will be unable to ignore.
Lisa Sharon Harper, Director of Mobilizing, Sojourners
August recess is over, and Congress is back in the beltway. With only nine days in session in September, debate over military action in Syria and budget/fiscal issues have both moved to the fore. While these issues require immediate attention, Congress must understand that immigration reform cannot be lost in the shuffle. People across the nation suffer under the weight of our broken system every day. Plus, our economy needs the boost that immigration reform could provide. Pastors across the country continue to engage the fight. Compelled by their faith, they are pressing for solutions that are guided by the biblical values of compassion, justice, and dignity.“I’m not doing this because I’m Hispanic,” stated Felix Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista de Quail Springs, the Hispanic ministry at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Okla. “I’m doing this because I’m a Christian.” Pastor Cabrera’s words remind us that this issue is about people, not politics.
THE UPDATE will appear every Monday until the dust settles on the legislative battle over comprehensive immigration reform. If you wish to raise your voice for fair reform, please visit our Action Center. You can also learn more about the issues by reading two interviews with someone personally impacted by America’s broken immigration system, Jessica Colotl. Also, don’t forget that you can subscribe to this blog by adding your email address to the box at the top left of this page!