Hosted by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the Lutheran Immigration Leadership Summit brought together ministry leaders from three Lutheran denominations who have continually committed themselves and their communities to the mission of welcoming migrants and refugees.
With the House and Senate both considering votes on the DREAM Act, the summit helped carry the timely witness of millions of Lutherans to the halls of the Capitol. Their message was clear: pass the DREAM Act and support compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform in the new Congress.
On Wednesday the Summit convened for a day of in-depth training in which Lutheran leaders and LIRS staff shared experiences, identified major problems, and discussed possible solutions. Throughout the day they renewed their commitment not to rest until a just and compassionate reform of the nation’s broken immigration system was signed into law by the president of the United States. With more than 10 million undocumented immigrants living at the margins of society, participants bore witness to the corrosive damage this injustice was causing in their congregations and communities. The day drew to a close with a reception hosted by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ12), and the good news that the House had passed the DREAM Act by a margin of 216 to 198.
The following day 50 scheduled visits with members of both parties brought the Lutheran message of compassion, mercy and hope to the halls of power. Summit participants visited House and Senate offices to relay the sentiment of millions of Lutherans: when our nation’s patchwork policies rely exclusively on enforcement we force vulnerable people to live in the shadows, where they are easy prey for the forces of exploitation and injustice. This inhumane treatment of our newest neighbors must be replaced with a charitable love that honors their human dignity. In a final visit with White House staff, they reiterated their support for the president’s stance on the DREAM Act while pressing the administration to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority in 2011.
Bishop E. Roy Riley, of the New Jersey Synod of the ELCA and LIRS Board Chair and Executive Committee Chair, acknowledged the necessity for Lutheran leaders to gather in the nation’s capital on an annual basis. “We have come to Washington as we have come many times before, to talk with members of Congress about the importance of immigration reform in this country. We know that we have to be relentless, because change does not just happen. It has been over ten years since we have been promoting the idea of providing some kind of opportunity for children who were brought to this country through no fault of their own. These are children who have grown up in our communities, gone to our schools, been friends with our kids, and are now ready to move into society.”
“As people of faith we are compelled to work for justice and bring a message of hope,” said Linda Hartke, President and CEO of LIRS. “There are young men and women across this country who are graduating high school into an adult society that refuses to acknowledge their potential and cuts down their dreams. In every meeting we asked our political leadership to renew this nation’s commitment to the dream of freedom and opportunity.”