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When religion and immigration say hello

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While at the Detention Watch Network conference to attack the detention crisis head-on (its more than 400,000 detainees a year – when will it stop growing?), I have met a number of faith-based organizations that are doing incredible work in their communities to advocate for fair and just immigration.

Faith seems to be in the air. As the first ever Senate immigration hearing on faith based perspectives is held, Think Progress reports that an anti-immigrant group is lambasting “religious elites” for their “compassion” saying, “the laity generally supports enforcement of immigration laws.”

Is that so? In a new report by CAP, an interactive map (we love it!) shows hundreds of faith communities engaged in grassroots-led activism on behalf of immigrants. Meanwhile between January and July, more than 25,000 people have gathered in churches across the country to highlight the stories of families who have been torn apart due to the broken immigration system, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declared, “taking parents from their children … that’s un-American.”

Silently, the work continues. Like Nick and Mary Mele, an ordinary couple in the Bellingham area, who decided to take a pilgrimage in reaction to the first work raid committed after President Obama took office. Taking a route that meant 9-10 miles of daily walking, they walked for 15 days from church to church, ending with a prayer vigil at the very same detention center where the workers were detained.

Or Sister Joann and Sister Pat, Sisters of Mercy, (we saluted your work today), who day after day, bitter cold, wind, or rain, would maintain a vigil outside the Broadview Immigration Detention Center near Chicago, the last stop for immigrants before they are deported.

And volunteers are always needed to become The Visitors (Academy Award nominee Richard Jenkins) at the Sojourners program that mentors volunteers to visit and befriend asylum seekers in a windowless converted warehouse near Newark Airport in New Jersey.

May God bless us all (and not just a priveleged few).

Photo courtesy of whatcom.blogs.com

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