October events in states and Washington to push for immigration reform
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — In California, the focus Oct. 5 will be on the immigrants who produce the food eaten around the country, including in the dining rooms of Congress.
Groups will gather in agricultural centers around the state to rally supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, urging the House of Representatives to take up and pass legislation approved by the Senate this summer.
In the southwestern corner of Arizona, people who want to make a stand for immigration reform plan to meet at three Catholic churches in Yuma at 5 a.m. to board buses to Phoenix, where there will be a statewide "March for Dignity and Respect" through the streets of the capitol city.
Advocates in Pueblo, Colo., will participate in a silent vigil and march; while those in Miami, organized by a group called the Coalition of United Latinas, will meet in a park in the Little Havana neighborhood, named for a hero of Cuba, Jose Marti.
Starting Oct. 4, pilgrims will walk from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Bloomington, Ill., to one district office of Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., before stopping for the night at a Methodist church in Blue Mound and continuing the next day to another of Davis's district offices. Davis, who is Catholic, is a particular target of efforts to enlist congressional support for comprehensive immigration reform.
Those are among dozens of events around the country planned for Oct. 5 as part of the March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect. Labor unions, churches and other social justice organizations have events scheduled as a lead-in to a daylong rally and concert in Washington Oct. 8.
Immigration reform legislation that addresses a range of issues has passed the Senate in a bill that President Barack Obama has said he could support. But the next step lies with the Republican-controlled House.
In a 68 to 32 vote June 27, the Senate passed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Competitiveness, and Immigration Modernization Act, which would massively ramp up enforcement on the southern border, adding 700 miles of fencing and doubling the number of Border Patrol agents, to the tune of $46.3 billion.
The bill also provides a path to legalization and ultimately citizenship for many of the nation's estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. Other provisions would change the systems for family reunification immigration, for farm labor immigration and temporary workers; give young adults a quicker path to citizenship under the DREAM Act; and address problems with employer verification, immigrant detention and where enforcement raids are conducted.
House Speaker John Boehner has said he wouldn't put the Senate bill on the floor agenda unless a majority of House Republicans support it. Instead, some piecemeal bits of immigration legislation -- focused on security, have been introduced. A bipartisan negotiating group that had been working for months at crafting a House comprehensive bill fell apart in mid-September. Analysts said that potentially could clear the way for the Senate bill to get a new push in the House from supporters who have now been released from their commitment to seek a compromise bill.
Meanwhile, in advance of World Day of Migrants and Refugees Jan. 19, a statement from Pope Francis called for "a change in attitude" toward migrants and refugees, and an end to treating people as "pawns on the chessboard of humanity."
In response, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration, called on members of the House to get on with comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
"Migrants have few rights in our economic system," Archbishop Gomez said in a Sept. 26 statement. "They are working for low wages in our restaurants and fields; our factories, gardens, homes and hotels. And these men and women have no security against sickness, disability or old age -- and no protections against being exploited in the workplace."
He urged the House to "debate and pass a bill that gives these undocumented men and women a path to citizenship and full membership in our society."
In addition to the October events, some Catholic institutions focused on the issue throughout September.
Early in the month, a handful of dioceses held immigration reform-themed events, including educational sessions and coordinated preaching on the subject. And the last week in September, Jesuit higher education institutions organized a Fall Call for Humane Comprehensive Immigration Reform, with events including more than 30 Masses and prayer services, educational programs and legislative lobbying. Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles scheduled a student Mass at the Mexican border.
At St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, immigration reform advocates built a version of a fence in the middle of campus on which statistics about immigration and the fence at the Mexican border were displayed.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network, which helped coordinate some of the Jesuit college activities, also was advocating on behalf of those who would be affected by the DREAM Act piece of the Senate bill, which would help young people who were brought into the United States as children, but lack legal status. Earlier this year, more than 100 presidents of Catholic universities wrote to Catholic members of Congress urging them to fix the immigration system they called "morally indefensible."
All those activities are in turn focused on an afternoon rally and concert on the National Mall Oct. 8, aimed directly at Congress.
Details of the speakers and performers hadn't been announced, but sponsoring organizations include several major labor unions, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and numerous Spanish-language media outlets, including El Pregonero, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.