Local religious leaders focus on immigration policy reform

November 12, 2013

HOUSTON — Passing immigration policy reform that can lead to citizenship, and protects the country’s borders, is better than addressing border control alone, local leaders of various religious faiths emphasized at an October news conference.

“We are here today to respond to both the comprehensive immigration bill in the House of Representatives and express concern about the SAFE Act bill,” said Bishop Janice Huie, of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, at St. Paul’s Methodist Church on Oct. 23. “We encourage representatives to be brave and push ahead with negotiations around immigration reform that honors the unity of families and the dignity of workers.”

The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, echoed Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, would allow states and localities to enforce federal immigration laws and allow expansion of non-federal immigration laws. The penalty of being in the country illegally would rise to the level of a criminal offence. Enforcement would change from deportation to possible jail time in the U.S., followed by deportation.

“This bill would result in the diversion of valuable law enforcement resources, leading to less safe communities,” said Cardinal DiNardo. “It would result in even more crowded jails and a patchwork of laws as each state establishes its own enforcement procedures.”

The comprehensive immigration policy bill introduced by the so-called Gang of Eight senators offers a better approach, Cardinal DiNardo added.
“At the time of its passage in June, we felt it... demonstrated a bipartisan, goodwill effort to address a broad range of issues,” he said. ”With the complementary House resolution introduced, these two pieces of legislation represent the most positive developments we’ve seen in years.”

In addition to Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Huie, local faith leaders participating in the news conference, organized by The Metropolitan Organization, included Bishop Michael Rinehart, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Pastor John Ogletree, First Metropolitan Church; and Rabbi David Lyon, Congregation Beth Israel. 

Pastor Ogletree summed up the concern the faith leaders have for persons of all faiths and circumstances in the immigration debate:
“God’s concern for people of different backgrounds is evident in His instruction to the children of Israel in the Old Testament: ‘Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt’” (Exodus 23:9).