Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares joined community leaders in a push for comprehensive immigration reform Nov. 21 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
Christian and Jewish leaders as well as economic experts joined in in a call for immigration reform in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma in a coordinated effort dubbed “Arizona Speaks.” The press conference concluded with a ceremonial signing of a letter to the Arizona congressional delegation.
The letter read in part: “We ask you to act now to bring about immigration policy reform before the end of this year. The cost of inaction is too high.”
“We think [immigration] needs to be addressed in an urgent way in the United States,” said Bishop Olmsted, calling those of faith to be in solidarity with every immigrant because “Jesus Himself was refugee.”
“Christ said we would be judged by how we welcome strangers,” the bishop said, citing the Gospel of Matthew 25:35: For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.”
“We have to keep fanning the flame to keep the interest alive,” Bishop Nevares said. “This is an urgent need for the good of our families, the community and our society.”
Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley said that congressional inaction “exacerbates an already broken system.” He called on his congregation to pressure congressional representatives.
“Border security is surely part of reform,” he said. “But by addressing every part of immigration reform, we strengthen border security.”
Bishop Steve Talmage of the Grand Canyon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America cited Leviticus 19:34: “Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens.”
“People of faith continue to urge elected officials to do what is honorable, what is just and what the Lord has asked us to do across generations,” he said.
Bishop Talmage called for an earned pathway to citizenship, humane border enforcement and reduced reliance on detention programs. He also underscored the need to address family unity across the border by addressing long delays in the legal immigration process.
“We must also ensure the protection of U.S. citizens and foreign workers,” he said.
Denise Resnik, president of DRA Strategic Communications in Phoenix, spoke of “borders, brand and babies.”
The border issues need to be addressed, but so does the Arizona “brand,” which she said had been tarnished by anti-immigrant legislation. “Babies,” the future of the state, should also be considered.
“We have to lead,” she said. “That’s the only way we can mitigate the damage that’s been done to our state.”
Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, noted the Latino buying power in Arizona.
“Companies come here because we’re bilingual,” he said. “Some companies don’t come here because they don’t think we treat people well.”
He said citizens “have a right to expect action” from Congress. “It’s fair to expect justice and for people to be treated fairly.” Broome said there wasn’t any action because Arizonans weren’t holding government leaders accountable.
Joe Rubio of Valley Interfaith Project said the event demonstrated that people of different walks of life — business, civic and religious — agree that Congress needs to act.
“Congress needs to take this seriously,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a tough debate, but don’t shy away from it. Don’t make it a political football. There’s a lot at stake. This really has an impact on people’s lives.”