Last week when I spoke at the “March Forth for Justice”conference on immigration, I was reminded that for many Americans, the problemsplaguing our immigration system seem too remote to pay much attention to.
We hear stories on the news, but we probably don’tpersonally know any of the 1.2 million immigrants who have been deported in thepast three years. We hear words like “amnesty,” “illegals,” and “DREAM Act,”but we don’t put faces to those words. We think that immigration is somethingthat affects people in California, Arizona, or Texas – but not where we live.
The truth is, immigrants live in every area of the country,and that the debate over immigration reform could have dramatic consequencesfor urban and rural communities alike.
Faith communities know this– they see immigrants filling theseats at houses of worship every weekend, and their congregations notice whenthe families of immigrants who have been deported turn to them for help.
So it was an honor to participate last weekend in a full-dayconference organized by faith communities in and around Cincinnati focused onimmigration issues. “March Forth for Justice” was co-sponsored by a coalition of Christian, Jewish, andIslamic organizations and spearheaded by the Unitarian Universalist Council ofGreater Cincinnati.
Conference participants heard about both the national debateover immigration, as well as that debate’s effect on communities in and aroundCincinnati.
A diverse group of speakers discussed Cincinnati’s historyas a city of immigrants, as well as the contributions to Cincinnati’s diversityfrom a new generation of immigrants. And three courageous young undocumentedimmigrants who have never known a home other than the United States discussedtheir hopes for a future in America, and their fears that they will be deportedregardless of their academic achievements and strong family and community ties.
Events like March Forth for Justice, which culminated in a rallyin support of the DREAM Act, remindus that immigration affects every corner of our country, and that the Obamaadministration’s destructive and counter-productive immigration enforcementpolicies rip apart communities every day.
The more frequently communities like Cincinnati rise up insupport of comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to legalresidency for undocumented immigrants, the greater the chances are of ourelected officials taking action to fix our nonsensical immigration system.
Congratulations to the organizers of March Forth for Justicefor a wonderful conference, and here’s hoping that faith communities and othersaround the country follow suit.