Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Comments at today's immigration press conference

The federal government's immigration practices are going from bad to worse with Pres. Bush's announcement that immigration enforcement will be ramped up over the next weeks.  This means more raids, more families broken apart, more people displaced . . . .

Here are my comments to the press at this morning's press conference by the Comite Pro-Amnistia General y Justicia Social.

At the Church Council of Greater Seattle we believe the foundation of our daily life as a society is the family.  A strong bond between parent and child is the best way to ensure our society has a strong future.  Everyone child should be nurtured in a family where he or she is loved and protected by a parent or parents who raise them and teach them and nurture them to full adulthood.  That is why we are particularly concerned about the effect of immigration enforcement on children and families.
This is a significant problem and under-reported problem. Pew Hispanic Center study reports there are 11.5 to 12 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.  In addition to that number there are 3.1 million children who are U.S. citizens by birth, living in families where at least one parent is an unauthorized immigrant.
We know these families.  These children and their parents sit in the pews of our churches.  These children and parents come to us for baptisms and weddings and funerals.  These families are a beloved part of our daily ministry.  We minister to them because they are beautiful and beloved children of God.
Because of our intimate knowledge of these families, we know that today families of unauthorized immigrants are living in fear.  They fear that
  • if they apply for a drivers’ license they will be taken from their family;
  • if they get sick and have to go to the hospital the government will find out and they’ll be taken from their family;
  • if they’re pulled over by a police officer they’ll be asked questions and they’ll be taken from their family;
  • when their employer gets a “no match” letter from the government, they’ll lose their job and be taken from their family;

The children of unauthorized immigrant families will grow up to be our doctors and soldiers and waitresses and social workers and our teachers.  They belong to us; they are part of us by virtue of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees their citizenship and their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
There is no human bond stronger than a mother’s love for her child.  The bond of parent to child is an expression of the bond of God to God’s people.  
That’s why it is not right for an American child to come home from school and discover her father has been taken away by the immigration police.
That’s why it is not right for an American child to come home from the playground and discover his mother has been taken away by the government.
We do not want 3.1 million American citizens to hate and fear their government because their mother or father was taken away from them in the middle of the night.
This year Congress was unable to pass comprehensive Immigration reform despite the universal recognition that the current law doesn’t work.  That’s why it is unfair that the federal government is ramping up enforcement of the old, unfair law.  The Church Council of Greater Seattle is already on record calling for complete reform of our immigration laws.  We are also supporting congregations who offer sanctuary to immigrants who are living in daily fear that their family will be torn apart by our unfair immigration laws.  
We call on the federal government to declare an immediate moratorium on enforcement of immigration laws that take parents away from American children.
We call on our government to remember the hopes and dreams of 3.1 million American children who simply want assurance that their mother or father will be able to tuck them into bed tonight.
God calls us as a nation to be more fair, more sensitive to the needs of these children and families. We pray that our elected leaders will remember allow our laws to represent the kind of good, loving people we know Americans to be.


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