As originally published by Huffington Post, 10/03/2013, 5:01 p.m.
Like many Americans, I am dismayed that ideological rigidity and the unwillingness to compromise have brought our nation to a government shutdown. Yet as vital services are stopped, one government activity continues: the deportation of more than 1,100 people every day. This moral stain continues unabated with thousands of spouses and children affected.
While Congress stymies progress on basic agenda items like paying our bills, deportations that separate families and hurt communities continue to run on schedule. With the urgent need to enact immigration reform, our families can’t wait through another budget dispute.
Earlier this week, House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced a House version of the bipartisan Senate Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act that includes the House’s bipartisan Border Security Results Act. And while both sides of the aisle agree that immigration reform is a priority, we have yet to see House leadership provide any support for moving a bill forward.
Faith communities across the country are calling on Congress to prioritize family unity and create a path to citizenship. I have joined the more than 8,000 people of faith across the country who have committed to 40 days of prayer, fasting and advocacy as part of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s FAST Action for Immigration Reform. On Oct. 5, I will join with other faith leaders to fast from sunup to sundown in solidarity with families separated by detention and deportation. Many Protestant communities will break the fast on World Communion Sunday, October 6.
This fasting on October 5 also coincides with more than 164 events in 39 states this weekend that CWS’s network of advocates and faith partners will join in a National Day for Dignity and Respect. We will continue to pressure the House of Representatives to create a pathway to citizenship and to keep families together without a harmful and destructive multibillion-dollar “border surge.”
Our push for immigration reform does not stop this weekend.
This issue is so critical to people of faith that whether the government is open or not, on October 7 and 8, hundreds of faith leaders, pastors, and advocates from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C. for CWS’s Summit on Immigration Reform. I will be proud call for action with our immigrant sisters and brothers and the top leaders of the American Baptist Churches, Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ and many more denominations. Together, we are praying for a kairos moment within the faith community wherein our faith is put into action to urge the House to enact just and humane immigration reform.
I am reminded of the parable of the persistent widow and the stubborn judge taught to us by Jesus – an immigrant himself. In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of a judge who had no fear of God and no respect for the people, but a persistent widow kept coming to him, seeking justice. After many refusals from the judge, the determination and consistency of the widow won out as the judge says “…because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” This parable teaches us that God will grant justice, and that we are to be like the widow, faithfully seeking out justice from those in power. God will never forsake us, and we can never stop pursuing justice.
When Congress decides to end the shutdown – which it must do at some point – our national leaders will need to prove that they can still get things done. Immigration reform should be at the top of that list. Congress has heard from diverse stakeholders – faith leaders, the business community, labor groups, community organizations, and everyday Americans – that immigration reform with a path to citizenship would benefit this country as a whole.
We have never been closer to achieving immigration reform, and the moral urgency for action by our nation’s leaders has never been greater. It is time for Congress to act and uphold our nation’s history of hospitality and realize America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.
Rev. John McCullough is President and CEO of CWS