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People of Faith and Immigration Reform

by Rachel Haswell

Sub-Themes at the World Assembly

In the late afternoon on Tuesday, October 8th, thousands gathered with signs in hand at First Street in front of the U.S. Capitol Building. Nearly 200 of them were being arrested for an act of civil disobedience. They took this moment to stand in solidarity for fair and compassionate immigration reform. Included in this group were a number of faith leaders, standing arm-in-arm with advocates and eight Congressmen.

Faith voices like these have been among the strongest in the movement for fair immigration reform. And the faith community is mobilizing across the country to fix the broken immigration system.

Religion is a powerful tool in leading social movements. Sweeping movements require unbelievable devotion, and people in faith communities stay motivated and assured, even as they put themselves in precarious situations. Consider the civil rights movement, born and bred in churches. Organizing within congregations is effective since they represent a group of people together, supporting one another. Faith can also be a pathway to connecting with other people, like immigrants seeking ministry in border churches.

Just as important, religious symbolism can promote social movements. This month begins a one-month fast to end the moral crisis caused by our broken immigration system. Fasting is common to many faith traditions and is a powerful symbol of repentance, solidarity, and hope. The current fast is targeted at the government institutions (Congress and the Administration) which can act to produce compassionate immigration reform providing a pathway to full citizenship to immigrants and protecting family unity.

With favorability ratings for the government at an all time low following the government shutdown, it is going to take faith to coax Congress to work for positive social change. And an active faith is precisely what inspired advocates working for immigration reform have.