“We are here
to open wider doors,” said Dora Luz Harper, Coordinator of
Isaias Duarte Center. “In a time of confusion and anger,
‘Immigration: God’s Law and Law of the Land’ is a discussion on
how we are called to respond to a stranger our land,” she said.
Bottom line of the workshop was that the current immigration laws
are broken, there needs to be immediate reform that respects human
dignity, protects families and saves lives.
invited four distinguished panelists who offered their expertise
on spiritual responsibility, economical impact, legal aspect and
personal experiences of undocumented immigrants. The goal was to
strategize an action plan to help further the immigration state
“We need to
speak the truth and debunk myths about immigration,” said
Thomas J. Allio, Senior Director of Diocesan Social Action
Office, who spoke to the economical impacts of immigration.
“Illegal immigrants pump $7 billion into social security annually
of which they don’t receive anything back… they are only qualified
for essential public health services,” he said.
Allio said the
fear most people have of losing their jobs is unfounded as only
5percent of jobs are occupied by undocumented workers. He says the
9 million workers fill essential gaps in the U.S.-American
speaker Sister Jane Burke, national manager for Justice for
Immigrants Campaign, Washington, D.C., said she is often stunned
by the violence propagated against her because she sits in an
office that advocates for undocumented workers. “It is time for
action, not just in light of law but in line with what our faith
teaches us,” she said. Burke talked about the Catholics Church’s
Social as the guidelines of how Christians should live in their
Leviticus 19:32-34, a guidance from God to ‘treat foreigners
with respect and grant them the same rights and protection as the
people of the land.’ Burke said there needs to be a comprehensive
immigration reform to fix the problems of a very complex issue.
“No one will get everything they want in this debate, but we have
a tremendous opportunity to work for the common good,” she said.
Burke said the
citizens of this country have a religious and civic obligation to
take care of the immigrants. “We turned a blind eye to this
development for years. We didn’t object when companies brought
over the so called ‘illegals’ to do the jobs we didn’t want to do
or couldn’t do… as long as our economy was strong and they
remained in the shadows you and I were not taking action,” she
with migrant farmworkers for 15 years in Florida and said they
were exploited for basic necessities and charged per toilet sheet
they used. She said the responsibility lies with everyone. “If you
want to punish someone for breaking the law, punish everyone, not
just the illegal immigrant,” said Burke.
Burke said it
is impossible to deport 12 million people and earned legalization
has to be an option. She quoted U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s
(D-Calif.) comparison of current immigration to the Civil Rights
Era and asked, “Is that where we want this country to go?”
member questioned the security risk of a porous southern border,
citing jihad and Al Qaeda as a serious threat and advocated being
suspicious of Latinos because they share Middle Eastern features.
The remarks sparked intense rebukes from other audience members.
McVeigh bombed Oklahoma all white men didn’t become suspicious,”
said María Smith, Cleveland Nonviolence Network. “We have
to be aware of becoming too scared,” said Jason Lorenzon,
an aspiring immigration attorney and a Canadian immigrant. He said
it is easy to forget real people are being affected. “We need them
here and we have plenty of resources to share with them,” he said.
Lorenzon said his immigration took 12 years and several thousand
Melissa Laubenthal said 15-20 years is the average time it
takes to process for a green card. Laubenthal encouraged getting
involved with U.S. Congress to move the backlog.
“It is a
misconception that having familial connection to a citizen grants
immunity to deportation,” she said. Deportation waivers are
available for those who can prove extreme hardship. “Good luck
trying to convincing a bureaucrat, that in itself is a hardship,”
she said. In August 2007, the costs of application fees were
raised by 66 percent so it would cost $1,010 for one person’s
application—the average income of an undocumented worker is $480 a
Executive Director, Nueva Luz, said the immigration debate
is one of proximity, “People don’t feel it is their issue, we must
force ourselves to empathize with the immigrant,” he said. Rodas
was undocumented for several years. “It was an interesting
experience,” he said.
summarized that the root cause of anti-immigration sentiment is
fear and cultural ignorance. “You don’t have to like us, but get
your facts straight,” he said. Rodas encouraged open dialogue
saying it makes solutions possible.
senators told her the pro-immigration block didn’t take the debate
seriously. “Every time we sent out an advisory, a few people
called their senators, but the lines were jammed by those who
opposed,” she said and advised learning the issues with an open
mind and making conscious decisions.
everyone can make a difference by ‘taking the time to write
editorials to counter the myths of undocumented immigration, learn
facts from reputable sources like the Pew Hispanic Center,
participate in rallies, and encourage church communities to
welcome strangers into their parishes.’