Thank you for all you’re doing to stand for fair and humane immigration reform! Today, I’m speaking with National Grassroots Director Folabi Olagbaju about LIRS’s state-by-state grassroots mobilization effort for immigration reform.
What are the states where LIRS is focusing efforts to mobilize Lutherans in support of humane comprehensive immigration reform?
We are currently focusing on the states of Arizona, Texas, South Carolina and North Carolina to engage Lutheran congregations in a structured and concerted way to support compassionate immigration reform legislation that meets our core principles. The states were selected because they represent key congressional districts that will be critical to the passage of an immigration reform bill we can fully support.
What are some of the highlights of this campaign so far?
For me, the highlights in the campaign so far have been getting to know key leaders in the Lutheran community and developing sound relationships based on trust and shared values. It’s been great to meet many of these leaders at the recently concluded Lutheran Immigration Leadership Summit and to travel to Houston to attend a faith and immigration event organized by the Texas-Louisiana Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Synod. Bishop Rinehart has been a great supporter of immigration reform and it has been a joy working with him and his staff.
What’s coming up that people should look for?
We now have an immigration reform bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744) introduced in the Senate by the bipartisan Gang of Eight. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will be introducing amendments and holding hearings when Congress returns from recess on May 7. This will be a critical time for communities of faith to raise their voices and call their senators to support or oppose amendments that will impact our communities. We have been contacting Lutheran congregations, especially those in our four priority states, to prepare them for this key moment. It’s very important that we get a strongly bipartisan immigration reform bill that meets LIRS core principles, in order to send a clear message to the House of Representatives that Americans are ready for compassionate and humane immigration reform legislation that keeps families together and has a clear roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans.
Why are you, personally, excited to lead LIRS’s grassroots mobilization?
As an immigrant myself, I have personal interest and stake in the issue. Leaving my native country of Nigeria, where I have family, friends, and familiar surroundings, was not an easy decision. So I understand at a deep and personal level what other immigrants face when they make that tough decision to move to a new country. More importantly, I am a passionate social justice advocate, and I’ve spent the greater part of my life working for human rights. I believe that fixing our broken immigration system and passing a compassionate and just immigration reform bill that honors the contributions of migrants and refugees to our society is one of the key human rights issues of our time. I’m truly and greatly fortunate to be part of this movement.
What are the most positive things people can do to help bring about immigration reform that’s fair and compassionate?
People need to educate themselves on this issue and to not be afraid to engage in conversations even with those who might not share their views on immigration reform. Many minds can be changed just by having conversations. The other important thing people can do is to let their members of Congress know what their views are on this very important issue. The voices of communities of faith are particularly crucial, because members of Congress in those states will be looking to see what the positions of churches and faith communities are on immigration reform. I truly believe this is the year we can right what is wrong with our immigration system. But it will not happen without the Lutherans and communities of faith raising their voices. I ask everyone to visit the LIRS Action Center and make their voice heard with their elected officials.