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Pledges Impact Immigration Discussion

April 25, 2011

By Marianne Comfort, Institute Justice Team

Judging by some of the email messages I’ve received and clippings of letters to the editor that have come into the office, many people have been very faithful to their New Year’s resolutions for immigration reform.

The resolutions campaign, which the Sisters of Mercy launched at the end of 2010 and which concluded this past weekend with Easter, generated 370 pledges. Most people committed to pray daily for immigrants and for elected leaders to have the moral courage to pass reform legislation. More than 200 pledged to talk with friends, relatives, co-workers and parishioners in an effort to open hearts to immigration reform. And nearly 200 pledged to call or email their U.S. representative or senator once a week. A few dozen people pledged to volunteer with immigrants, host a house party on immigration, submit a letter to the editor on immigration or organize a meeting with their representative.

While immigration reform has not received any serious attention at the federal level, there were encouraging developments around the country, as reported by participants in the New Year’s resolution campaign.

Here in Maryland, where I live, some of us regularly contacted our delegates and senators, urging them to pass a state Dream Act. The act, which will allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at state collegse and universities,  passed in the final days of this year’s legislative session.

A Sister of Mercy who works with Catholic Charities in Louisville, KY, reported that her agency and the Catholic Conference of Kentucky were able to stop the state legislature from passing two draconian, immigration restrictionist proposals.

A Sister in Cincinati who works with homeless women, including immigrants, is advocating for immigration reform while providing direct assistance and collaborating with other organizations to address human trafficking among women on the streets.

In Wilkes Barre, PA, two Sisters have been working with their parish social justice committee to educate people about immigration reform. One of them has inserted a short message in the bulletin each week to dispel the myths and share facts about immigration. One recent Sunday a speaker talked about immigration at the end of each Mass and then engaged a small group on the issue in the afternoon. About 50 parishioners sent postcards to their legislators calling for immigration reform.

Other campaign participants shared content of their discussions with legislators, and sent clippings of letters to the editor or links to their letters in online newspaper editions. Sisters got letters to the editor published in newspapers in Philadelphia, Wilkes Barre and Scranton that expressed opposition to attempts to eliminate automatic citizenship for those born in the U.S. to undocumented parents. One Sister got a letter published in the Cincinati Enquirer that expressed the need for federal immigration reform rather than, as is happening, individual states passing their own laws. And two Sisters got letters published in newspapers in Macon, GA, and Rochester, NY, expressing disappointment that the federal DREAM Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for young adults brought to the U.S. as children by their undocumented parents, failed to pass.

You can learn more about the Sisters of Mercy’s work on immigration here.

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