The Gang of 8, four Republican Senators and four Democratic Senators, and President Obama separately held press conferences to unveil their proposals for moving forward on legislation to overhaul our country's immigration system earlier this week. Both plans call for strengthening border security and creating a pathway to citizenship for families already living and working in the U.S. The call for a pathway to citizenship is an important part of comprehensive immigration reform and an element of what the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has called for many times over the years.
The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Rev. Gradye Parsons, found the two proposals hopeful and celebrated movement on discussions for reform. However, he cautioned there is still a lot of work to do. He stated, "The press conferences earlier this week put a spotlight on the brokenness of our immigration system and provided hope that a commonsense approach to reform will prevail. The Senators' legislative pillars and the President's four-part proposal, as they currently exist, are in line with the policy of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We look forward to seeing how these plans develop into legislation. In addition, we will be working with Presbyterians, as well as our ecumenical and inter-faith partners, across the country to advocate for reforms that are just and meet the needs of our country."
The Office of Immigration Issues, charged with carrying out the mandates of the General Assembly, has been working with local congregations and mid-councils to bring attention to the suffering created by an unjust immigration system. Teresa Waggener, Co-Manager of the Office of Immigration Issues, works directly with Presbyterian pastors and congregants and is encouraged by the latest movement toward comprehensive immigration reform. “Immigration is on the hearts and minds of many congregations. I hope this news will inspire and energize us all to keep pressing for just immigration reform, “ She stated.
Rev. Angel Suarez, Associate for New Immigrant Congregational Support, noted that this week's announcements were very timely for him and others attending the Christian Churches Together (CCT) Conference in Austin, Texas this week, which is focused on immigration. Rev. Suarez works with new immigrant congregations and believes the movement of the immigration debate will inspire the pastoral leaders at the conference to urge their churches to advocate for reform. He stated, "There is one thing happening here at this meeting in Austin. It's the Spirit's certification that CCT is exercising its prophetic role at the right time for a just reform of immigration laws. All we need to do is to listen and engage as churches."
Presbyterians can join the work being done to ensure immigration reform is a reality in 2013 by educating their communities about the need for reform and the importance of advocating with members of congress. To assist in this effort, download the Tool Kit developed by the Office of Immigration Issues. It is available in English and Spanish. For more information, contact Melissa at the Office of Immigration Issues at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-569-5007.