Putting it in Perspective: Liberty and Justice for All?

Posted by Jeremy Hiken on Thu, May 03, 2012 at 16:54 pm

Last week, I had the chance to attend part of a 48-hour vigil leading up to an Interfaith Immigration Coalition rally held the same day as the Supreme Court heard arguments on SB 1070. The law, enacted in 2010, is an attempt to drive undocumented immigrants out of Arizona.

As a student living in DC, I have seen my fair share of protests over the past few years, but I have never been to one which brought together so many diverse religious groups. Throughout the rally, the speakers emphasized that only with such unity will the pro-immigrant community overcome the discrimination that immigrants in Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia currently face. Having been at the rally, there is no doubt in my mind that a large proportion of the American faith community stands as one in its advocacy for undocumented immigrants.

While all of the speakers were very passionate, two of them left a deep impression on me. The first spoke about his high school friend, an undocumented immigrant from the Czech Republic. When the time came for his classmates to choose colleges, he noticed that his friend tried not to talk about the matter. Ultimately, the speaker found out that his friend was unable to go to college because he was undocumented. The second person was the daughter of a Mexican immigrant in Arizona who decided to seek employment in California as a result of SB 1070. At the state border, the girl’s father was stopped by Arizona police and arrested, having not had “papers.” The daughter did not see her father for several months afterwards, leaving her family separated and anxious.

Both speakers were able to personalize the day-to-day struggles and fears immigrants face. These experiences should teach everyone involved in this debate, pro- and anti-immigrant, that despite all of the policy rhetoric, it comes down to human needs and values – the desire for a roof over your head, three meals a day, and freedom from fear. Regardless of where one stands on the political spectrum, we must all agree on the need to treat these immigrants as human beings who just want to strive for the American dream.

To bring about such peace, Congress must enact comprehensive immigration reform that balances human rights and national security interests. This reform should include a path to citizenship for those not convicted of serious crimes, improved and expanded integration programs, and a secure border. Let’s hope that Congress realizes the urgency of immigration reform and acts to pass provisions which will put immigration policy back in federal hands where it belongs.

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