Sunday, February 1, 2009

The good, the bad and the ugly

For those of us tracking immigration issues, a roller coaster set of weeks. I’ll start with the positives:

• More than 200 religious leaders advocating comprehensive immigration reform gathered in Washington D.C. Jan. 21 – sandwiched between the inauguration on the 20th and the March for Life on the 22nd. Although the immigration advocates didn’t garner a lot of media attention, they signaled the need for a shift in the direction and tone of discourse about existing policies. "Immigration practices in this country have been undermined by severe and deep constitutional and human rights violations," said Rabbi David Shneyer, director of Am Kolel Sanctuary and Renewal Center at a Jan. 8 press conference announcing the gathering on the 21st. "Now is a time for healing and renewal." (Catholic News Service, Jan. 9)

• Two weeks ago, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform, announced a national effort to organize prayer vigils coinciding with the first recess of this session of Congress, February 13-22, when members will be home in their districts. The interfaith coalition is asking people to plan public prayer vigils for their communities of faith, to include prayers petitions concerning immigration reform within worship, and to ask clergy or lay leaders to offer a sermon focusing on immigration during this week. Go to for information about organizing a prayer vigil or to register an event on the event calendar. As I’m blogging this, there is one prayer vigil already scheduled in Pennsylvania: the Latino Ministry - Lehman UMC, Hatboro, Pa. will hold a prayer vigil Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. Call 215-470-2229 for more information.

• Senior Catholics officials attending the Jan. 14-18 Vatican-sponsored meeting of families in Mexico City expressed optimism that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama would usher in more favorable immigration policies that include putting an end to the workplace raids separating parents from their children. "We foresee and we hope that the new administration will organize migration in the right way, with contracts and limited-time (stays)," Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, told Catholic News Service.

• Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers gave a speech Jan. 28 at the University of San Diego saying that integration of immigrants "is the responsibility not only of the immigrant but also of the host society" and is achieved through open dialogue. The speech was billed as a preview to an international conference April 15-16 at the Catholic university in California; the conference will discuss the relationships among migration, religious experience and national identity. (Catholic News Service, Jan. 29)

• Amid anecdotal accounts of people being assaulted for speaking on their cell phones in Spanish and the Mummers Parade “Speak English” anti-immigrant float (see my blog entry of Jan. 7, “Oh, Philadelphia!”) comes news that the people of Nashville, Tennessee have voted down a proposal by a councilman that would have barred government employees from communicating with businesses, tourists, hospital patients and crime victims in any language other than English.

But, also in the news:

• New York’s governor appointed a new senator with an anti-immigrant voting record.
El Diario/La Prensa, which covers immigration stories more fully than almost any other newspaper out there, has a terrific editorial about Gillibrand’s opportunities to rethink immigration policy now that she represents the entire state as senator. Lamentably, though the print and smart editions of the newspaper carried the editorial in both English and Spanish, the web site has it only in Spanish.;ana-cu-106472-1.html

• The U.S. children of an undocumented Nicaraguan woman in detention in Florida went on hunger strike trying to postpone the deportation of their mother – who was held in ICE detention for more than a month. The children, 9 and 12 years old, came home one day to find their mother gone.

• Another immigrant died while in detention. The New York Times tracked reports that the death was a result of institutional medical neglect. The facility is the same one where, two years earlier, another detainee died after being denied medical treatment.

• Anti-immigrant groups released reports this month blaming for Florida’s budget shortfall and the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure (“the potholes!” in the words of one immigration advocate) on undocumented immigrants. and

On a seemingly unrelated note, those of you who already know I’m a poetry geek will be unsurprised by the fact that I listened attentively to the inaugural poem “Praise Song for the Day” by Elizabeth Alexander when she intoned it on that cold, blustery January day. I can’t say I thrilled to the poem. But I have to admit that lines from it resonate. Especially today, at the end of this particular post:

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.


What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light


In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.

I think about the sentences to be uttered at the prayer vigils in upcoming days, filled with love instead of hatred. And about the candles lit by leaders of many faiths and individuals of good will (and even by some newspapers) that will continue to shed widening pools of light on our human family.

Unexpectedly, without starting out to write about hope, I find myself there.

1 comment:

  1. The immigration issue, as a matter for compassion for the humblest in our society, won't disappear from our public discourse as long as good writers like you continue bringing up.
    Thank you for sharing this.


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