Impoverished immigrants facing deportation in New York City can now have court-appointed counsel on their side for the first time in this nation's history.
Immigration and the Church
The tents on the southeast corner of the National Mall were nearly empty this afternoon, with the activists inside receiving visitors quietly and with little fanfare.
Just two blocks west of the U.S. Capitol, those inside have pledged to a daily fast until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform.
Organizers of the campaign, called "Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship," have set up visits to those fasting by members of Congress, prominent organizers, and faith leaders.
As an icy wind whipped the sides of a packed tent, five activists committed themselves Tuesday to fast from food and drink and to camp in front of the U.S. Capitol until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform.
"I know that there are going to be difficult days ahead of me," said Eliseo Medina from the Service Employees International Union. "I know that going without food will not be easy and I know that I will suffer physical hunger.
Passing comprehensive immigration reform is "a matter of great moral urgency that cannot wait any longer for action," New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a letter Thursday.
Keeping undocumented immigrants "as a permanent underclass of workers who are unable to assert their rights or enjoy the fruits of their labor is a stain on the soul of the nation," said the cardinal, who will step down as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the group's meeting next week.
The last time Congress attempted a full-blown fix of immigration law in 1986, the major accomplishments were that a few million people won legal status and some employment verification systems were created, but the legislation proved inadequate to repair systemic problems, according to panelists at a migration law and policy conference.
President Barack Obama issued a rallying cry Thursday to advocates of immigration reform, telling them to press Congress to pass a bill on the issue before the end of the year.
"This is the moment we should finally be able to get the job done," Obama said during a statement at the White House, surrounded by advocates of reform. "It is time. Let's go get it done."
The night spent in jail gave Eli McCarthy time to reflect.
The director of justice and peace for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, McCarthy was among the more than 200 people arrested Oct. 8 outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington following an immigration rally on the National Mall.
Jesus was the "divine immigrant" who lived his life "traveling from place to place," Bishop David O'Connell of Trenton told the congregation at a midday "Justice for Immigrants" Mass Oct. 11 at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral.
"Sacred Scripture tell us where he was from and what his ancestral lineage was," the bishop said in his homily. "But nowhere in the Bible do we find his permanent address, the location of his house, where he lived after beginning his public ministry.
"He lived and worked as an immigrant, an itinerant preacher, on many levels," the bishop added.
At least eight members of Congress were among 200 people arrested in an act of civil disobedience Tuesday at the conclusion of a rally and march in support of comprehensive immigration reform at the National Mall.
Among the arrested members of Congress, all Democrats, was John Lewis of Georgia, who has been willingly subjecting himself to arrest in pursuit of civil rights since the 1960s, when he was at the side of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
A landmark measure granting California driver's licenses to people who are in the country illegally represents an important commitment to immigrants, said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.
The archbishop said he hopes the bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Thursday, will lead the way to comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.