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Make a New Year’s Resolution for Immigration Reform

December 21, 2010

By Marianne Comfort, Institute Justice Team

What will you do to help create welcoming communities for immigrants in the New Year? I have pledged to write a letter to the editor that explains the need for immigration reform that reunites families and provides a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, or that argues against any proposed legislation that would block these goals.

A few dozen other people have taken the New Year’s Resolution for just and humane immigration reform in 2011, through the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ website. Many more are making such pledges through like-minded organizations around the country.

The Resolution was spearheaded by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, made up of 30 national faith-based organizations, including the Sisters of Mercy.

The ICC has posted several video clips of people explaining why they are making a New Year’s Resolution for immigration reform. Some of them are quite moving, including one featuring a young woman who was left alone in the U.S. at age 17 when her parents had to return to Guatemala; she chose to stay because, having been born here, the U.S. was the only home she knew and she wanted to continue her education. Another woman, who is brown-skinned and speaks with an accent, expressed her fear of getting stopped and separated from her children just because she might have left her proof of citizenship at home.

My reasons aren’t quite so personal, but still motivating.

U.S. immigration policy became more than theoretical many years ago when I saw the powerful movie, “El Norte.” This film describes the repression and violence that push a brother and sister to flee Guatemala and suffer all kinds of dangers en route to “the north.” They believed that they had “made it” once they crossed the border, but they found that they had only just begun to face legal and cultural barriers to finally feeling safe and economically secure.

Some time later I befriended a woman from El Salvador and another from Guatemala, both of whom had fled the violence and poverty of their home countries when teenagers. One friend told of how her mother sent her to the U.S. to avoid regular sniper attacks on her university campus. The other made a perilous trek by bus and train to join her mother and siblings already trying to make a living here; she was turned back a couple of times before succeeding to cross the border.

Both eventually earned legal status. One of these women went on to work with the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program and to provide voluntary spiritual support to incarcerated youth. The other went on to earn a master’s degree, work as a chemist in a large corporation, and then pursue certification as a hospital chaplain to minister to Spanish-speaking patients.

Knowing how hard-working they are, and committed to ministering to others, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to deport them or others similarly contributing to the good of our society.

The number of New Year’s Resolutions so far is certainly a good sign of movement toward creating truly welcoming communities. People are pledging to contact their legislators once a week, to organize a group to visit legislators in person, to talk with friends skeptical about immigration reform and try to move them to be more supportive, to host a house party and show a film illustrating the plight of undocumented immigrants, and to pray daily for the safety of immigrants and for the opening of the hearts and minds of lawmakers reviewing immigration-related legislation.

Please add your pledge to all of theirs, to make 2011 the year for just and humane immigration reform.

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