The immigration debate often brings out the worst in people, but it still is disappointing to see the sad display by a number of bishops and other religious leaders yesterday outside the Capitol. They used their prayer vigil to spew hatred at their fellow Christians and other Americans working to reduce immigration in order to help the most vulnerable members of our society.
Look at the Episcopal news service story below that describes the vigil and the sentiments behind it.
The United Methodist, Episcopal and Catholic bishops held the prayer vigil/publicity event to call for an end to hateful rhetoric in the immigration debate.
But as far as I can see most of the hateful rhetoric this week has come from organizations campaigning for amnesty and higher immigration. All the mud-slinging and name-calling has come from America's Voice, the National Council of La Raza, their close allies in Congress and now from these religious leaders.
I'm not hearing the leaders on our side call immigrants names or demonize them. What I hear from our side is a request for a rational public policy debate about how to set a reasonable number for immigration and how to enforce that law.
I have tried for years to meet with the national religious leaders to discuss the principles involved in the immigration debate -- and maybe even to find some common ground. But I have been continually rebuffed. Most of these national religious bodies have now passed resolutions supporting "comprehensive immigration reform" (amnesty and green card increases) without ever allowing themselves to hear our side of the issue.
And now they have decided to accept the hateful rhetoric and smears of the Southern Poverty Law Center as gospel truth. It is clear that these religious leaders regard all of us immigration-reductionists as their enemy. But while Jesus taught that people should love their enemies, these religious leaders have decided to bear false witness against us.
(I should note that most years I do hours upon hours of guest appearances on the radio shows at the Hold Their Feet to the Fire. I am missing it this year because I am doing business throughout California this week.)
(The references to the FAIR organization, and the reports behind them, are full of distortions. If you ever see anything from the SPLC about NumbersUSA or any other immigration-reduction leader that causes you concern, please contact us before you make any assumptions.)
Interfaith prayer vigil seeks end to hateful immigrant rhetoric
By Lynette Wilson, September 16, 2009
[Episcopal News Service -- Washington, D.C.] The character of the United States depends on how its citizens treat the most vulnerable in their midst and in some ways that character is being tested, said Diocese of Rochester Bishop Prince Singh during a September 15 prayer vigil in Washington, D.C.
Singh, faith leaders, members of Congress and others gathered in prayer "to call for an end to hateful rhetoric in immigration debate," in the vigil organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, of which the Episcopal Church is a member.
"It is a call for us as people of faith to come together in some sense of how we will reflect that character because we are a nation of immigrants," said Singh.
The vigil was organized in response to the Federation for American Immigration Reform's (FAIR) annual talk radio rally and lobby days September 14-16. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Alabama-based international civil rights organization, has labeled FAIR a "hate group," based on its historical connection to white supremacist groups.
"Immigrants both undocumented and documented are part of the backbone of what makes American great," said Democratic Representative Jared Polis of Colorado during the vigil. "And there should be no misconceptions [about the] people … who are lobbying today … FAIR makes no distinction between documented and undocumented [immigrants]."
Polis stressed the need for comprehensive immigration reform, citing a recent proposal in the Senate that would make it more difficult for immigrants to gain access to health care. (In 1996, Congress established a five-year waiting period for immigrants seeking health coverage through Medicare and Medicaid.)
When President Barack Obama said during his September 9 address to Congress and the nation that illegal immigrants wouldn't be given access to coverage under the current plan for health care reform, Republican Senator Joe Wilson of South Carolina called him a liar.
"Anti-immigration groups and those in opposition to health-care reform have brought immigrants into the debate to further their agenda," said Ana White, immigration and refugee policy analyst in the Episcopal Church's Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations.
The Episcopal Church, through resolutions passed at General Convention and Executive Council, works to improve the status of documented and undocumented immigrants by lobbying for the rights of immigrants and their families.
In July, General Convention adopted Resolution B006, which called for comprehensive immigration reform that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants who have established roots in the United States, including parents and spouses of legal immigrants, to have a "pathway to legalization and to full social and economic integration in to the United States."
Singh and Polis were joined at the vigil by Bishop John Wester of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and chairman of the Committee on Migration for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church; Dale Schwartz of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society; and Democrat Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois.
"We're a great nation. A nation that has welcomed immigrants to her shores for more than 200 years," said Wester. "Yet we are currently experiencing a political environment fueled by anti-immigrant rhetoric, rhetoric which dehumanizes our fellow human beings and also reduces and diminishes us as a nation."
In tough times immigrants become scapegoats, Schwartz said, adding that in his more than 40 years as an immigration attorney he has seen the pendulum swing many times.
"Today immigrants are being used as scapegoats and deemed the cause of the United State's ills," said Schwartz. "We must not stand for the hate crimes and the hate rhetoric that we hear today -- immigrants also are people of faith. Immigrants want a better life for their families. Immigrants are part of our churches, synagogues, mosques and communities. Immigrants also work hard to overcome tremendous odds."
"Bishops Working for a Just World," a group of Episcopal bishops, including Singh, is in Washington, D.C. this week to lobby on Capitol Hill in September 16 in support of health-care reform.
ROY BECK is CEO & Founder of NumbersUSA