Churches join US rallies to support justice for migrants
Three bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) joined prominent United Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Mennonites and Christians of many different traditions when they spoke at events held across the United States on Monday in support of just immigration reform.
There are nearly 12 million ëillegalsí currently in the US, and pro-migrant campaigners say that they deserve an amnesty. Many menial jobs are done by migrant labourers, who make a major contribution to the economy.
The right of the Republican Party opposes what it sees as a ësofteningí of attitudes towards immigration. But critics point out that the US is a nation of migrants and that controlling labour flows while capital can make or break jobs anywhere is unfeasible and unjust.
They also point out that the rich are happy to make use of illegal domestic labour when it suits them, only to be harsh in their political attitude to the poor.
Christians also argue that compassion towards sojourners in the land is a basic biblical requirement.
The Rev Theodore F. Schneider, a bishop from the ELCA Metropolitan Washington DC Synod, spoke at a rally held on the National Mall in the national capital. The rally was one of 130 events calling for fairness towards over 11 million migrants.
The US House of Representatives passed an immigration reform bill in December 2005 which included provisions that would criminalize undocumented individuals and those who provide humanitarian aid to them, including clergy and non-profit organizations.
ìWe stand in solidarity with the voices that cry out for justice," said Bishop Schneider. ìWe stand in solidarity with those who cry out for citizenship in this great land.î
Organizers estimate that the Washington rally drew 500,000 people. Others speakers at the rally included Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archdiocese of Washington, and Massachusetts senator. Edward Kennedy, who has also lobbied for seven years to gain an increase in the breadline minimum wage.
Several staff members from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Baltimore, participated in the rally. LIRS is a cooperative agency of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
In Los Angeles there was a candlelight vigil and walk. Faith leaders blessed the procession of people proceeding from La Placita to Chinatown as part of the event.
"We walk because we are all children of God," ECLA Bishop Nelson said in the blessing. "We walk because we are all immigrants. We walk because we are not criminals. And we walk because we are committed to justice and peace."
The Los Angeles vigil drew more than 10,000 people and featured speakers including Cardinal Roger Michael Mahony, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles.
A conversation on immigration reform took place at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, hosted by the Milwaukee Area Congregations Allied for Hope and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
Also speaking at the Milwaukee event were the Rt Rev Steven Miller, Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of Milwaukee; Rabbi Marc Berkson, from the Wisconsin Council of Rabbis; and Scott D. Anderson, executive director of the ecumenical Wisconsin Council of Churches.
A number of immigration bills were introduced in the Senate following last yearís bill. It seemed that a compromise had been reached on a bill that eliminated some controversial provisions of the House bill and added a path to legalization for many of the undocumented immigrants now in the United States. However, the Senate failed to come to a vote on immigration reform before adjourning on 7 April 2006.
Debate is expected to resume in the Senate after Congress reconvenes on 24April, but any bill passed by the Senate will need to be reconciled with the House bill before it can be signed into law.