The Texas-Louisiana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) organized a “Faith & Immigration” event in Houston on April 13 to educate Lutheran congregations and leaders to be better advocates for comprehensive immigration reform.
The event was organized in collaboration with LIRS, The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) and Willy, Nanayakkara, Rivera & Goins, an immigration law firm in Houston. It featured a series of workshops on community organizing, pastoral care, living in detention, and understanding immigration law. More than 30 Lutheran pastors, lay people, students, and LIRS staff members attended the event, which was moderated by Reverend Pedro Suarez, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Evangelical Mission.
Elizabeth Valdez, the keynote speaker, addressed the importance of this moment for migrant rights in the country and why the voices of the faith community are critical in the discourse. She also recognized the need to have conversations with other people, in particular to listen to people who may be afraid of immigration reform. She noted that few people have the power to encourage their pastors to be courageous and speak to the economic and politics of immigration reform, which is in the scripture. She closed by noting that those present have strong allies in the Houston business community, which is very supportive of immigration reform.
Javier Rivera from the collaborating law firm led a workshop on understanding immigration law. He emphasized the importance of people knowing their rights under the law. He gave an overview of the different visa categories and walked participants through key questions in order to ask migrants with immigration problems to provide the best legal support for their case. He noted the increased restriction on drivers licenses in the Texas, which he said explained why a high number of people drive without a license and insurance. He felt Texas had calculated that if it makes it hard on undocumented immigrants, they will self-deport. But the state has been wrong, as he is not seeing mass self-deportation.
Other speakers talked about working with youth and the importance of storytelling. They noted the shift in the public view of immigration and that it is possible to stop deportation proceedings when churches and communities come together to offer a support network for migrants.
Rev. Suarez closed the event by thanking those in attendance and informing participants of the intention of the synod to put together an immigration team to meet and plan similar events. She noted that the synod’s desire is to do more ministries to Latinos.
Special thanks are due to Andrea Martinez, Communication Coordinator of the synod, for organizing the event. This is the kind of event we would like to see replicated across Lutheran synods and districts in the four priority states where we plan to educate and mobilize Lutherans to support comprehensive immigration – Arizona, Texas, and South and North Carolina. For more information and action opportunities around immigration reform, please visit http://lirs.org/cir/. To speak out for comprehensive immigration reform, please visit our Action Center.
Photo credit: Andrea Martinez