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Religious Communities Lend Support to Immigration Reform


Jessica Acee • Aug 26, 2013

Catholic, Evangelical and Jewish clergy and leadership are making the most of the August congressional recess by investing resources into the fight for fair, just immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  They are running radio ads, organizing special services, and calling on their members to put pressure on local representatives to pass reform this fall.

The arguments for immigration reform easily line up with the values of most religious organizations: a stable family, opportunity in education, freedom from persecution.  In addition, many undocumented immigrants are active in their religious communities.

For Catholics, the New York Times reports that, “Already, nearly a dozen major dioceses and archdioceses, including Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and San Antonio, have committed to holding Masses and events and the Archdiocese of New York is considering how it might participate as well.”

More than just religious ceremonies, these campaigns include advertising and phone calls directed at 60 Catholic Republican lawmakers.  Marches in tough districts are planned as well.  Efforts will continue into the fall, but the church is calling on bishops across the country to meet with, phone or write their members of Congress in support of an overhaul.

Joining the Catholics is the Evangelical Immigration Table, which recently invested over $400,000 in a radio ad campaign aimed at 56 Congressional districts across 14 states.   This brings the total ad spending to almost a million dollars.

The goal is that, “They’ll return to Washington knowing they have support at home for taking action on reform,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

The Reform Jewish community and other Jewish organizations, long connected to the plight of immigrants, have also stepped up their efforts.  In California, the Immigration Shabbat project was launched with support from the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Jewish Community Relations Council.  Congregations participate by agreeing to incorporate an immigration reform message into sermons, Torah study and High Holy Day discussion groups.

It’s clear that Republicans in the house are going to need rationale and support to stand up to conservative threats, and religious groups are attempting to provide some of that political cover.  It’s a hopeful sign that America’s religious communities are taking a vocal step to increase the pressure during this crucial time for immigration reform.

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