UCC advocates stay true to message, to protect families in immigration reform debate
Written by Connie Larkman
May 10, 2013
Immigration reform advocates from the United Church of Christ joined other faith leaders for a vigil in front of the Russell Senate Building on Thursday, May 9, during the debate over immigration reform now underway in the U.S. Senate. The immigration bill crafted by the so-called Gang of Eight – a bipartisan group of senators working on reform – is up for review by a key Senate committee that is offering amendments that could change the measure significantly. The group is urging lawmakers to make the right decision on immigration reform, and keep families together.
Children whose parents had been deported gave very moving testimony, pleading with the senators that are presently considering the bill to find a way to bring their parents back home.
The Rev. Randy Mayer of Good Shepherd UCC Sahuarita, Ariz., whose church has been re-filling the tanks at the water stations in the desert for over a decade, shared a faith message for common sense immigration reform. "As a person living along the border, I can testify that we need to keep families together," Mayer said. "One of the most painful sights that we see along the border is the broken, torn and shattered remains of families. Loved ones, so desperate to be together, that they will risk even death to make that happen."
The 18 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have proposed 300 amendments to the legislation, ranging from protections for LGBT couples, to border-security fixes, to efforts to dismantle the bill’s central goal of creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Mayer, representing the UCC and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform, is just one of the voices urging a pathway to citizenship without borders, sharing examples of what the current immigration policy is doing to the people he serves.
"About a month or so ago, in the middle of the night I got a call from a frantic young woman, a U.S. citizen who was desperate about her husband who had been deported and was attempting to cross. She was keeping in contact with him by cell phone, he was in bad shape. No water, he was injured and couldn’t walk any further and slowly his cell phone lost power. I can’t tell you how painful and helpless you feel when someone is lost and is slowly dying and you can’t do anything about it."
On Thursday, the committee accepted amendments to increase border security, but defeated amendments to delay citizenship to undocumented immigrants. The committee continues work on amendments on Tuesday, May 14, when it discusses the path to citizenship issue.
UCC advocates like Mayer, the Rev. Noel Andersen, Church World Service's grassroots coordinator for immigrant rights and founding member of the UCC's Collaborative on Immigration, and the Rev. Mari Castellanos, UCC minister for domestic issues, also present at the Thursday vigil, will continue to press lawmakers for the best immigration reform bill from Congress. "We in the desert, the borderlands that have seen far too much death and despair, know that this comprehensive immigration bill is not going to be perfect…" said Mayer, "but we will be back day after day, pushing and prodding… heck we will even pray without ceasing. Our goal is to make it the best that it can be. For we are people of faith, people that carry the values that can make lasting, positive and productive change, and we won’t quit until we get it."
Read more from Randy Mayer on the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website.