How to Help Immigration Reform Become Law

Yesterday, by a solid 68-32 vote, the U.S. Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living here. Now, it’s on to the House, where the route to passage is looking a bit dicey. House members need to hear from supporters of comprehensive reform if the bill has any chance of becoming law.

It’s time for the Catholic Church to shine.

For years, the Church has been a leading voice advocating compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform. By speaking out with a unified voice, we have the opportunity to make an impact on the continuing debate. As John Carr once told me, “In Washington, politicians go wherever the wind blows. It’s our job to change the wind.”

Changing the wind is crucial over the next few weeks. And all it takes to work at it is a telephone.

South Jersey congressmen are crucial: call them every day and have your friends and family members call them.

The Diocese of Camden is represented by three different congressmen: Rob Andrews, Frank LoBiondo, and Jon Runyan. Andrews is in favor of comprehensive reform, but he has remained relatively quiet on the issue. It’s time for him to become a champion.

Reps. LoBiondo and Runyan are Catholics, and seen as potential supporters of a pathway to citizenship. But they need to hear from us. As Congressman LoBiondo told our group that met with him three weeks ago, “You’re clearly passionate. But the other side is passionate, too.”

It’s most effective to call the congressman in whose district you live (click here to find out who your rep is), but by all means, call all three.

Sometimes, making these phone calls can seem intimidating. But you’ll most likely be speaking to a 19-year old intern whose job it is to make constituents feel welcome. I’ve never made an advocacy phone call that wasn’t a short and pleasant conversation. The intern/receptionist will make a note of your name, hometown, and concern. Congressman LoBiondo told our group that he reads a print out of all phone call messages each evening, so you can be confident that your message will make it through to the lawmakers themselves.

Here are their phone numbers, and a basic script you can use:

Congressman Andrews: 856.546.5100
Congressman LoBiondo:  609.625.5008
Congressman Runyan: 856.780.6436

Script: Hi, my name is n., and I’m from (name of parish and city). I’m calling to urge the congressman to support comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the country. It should also include strong provisions to preserve family unity. Please let the congressman know that Catholics across his district are calling for compassionate reform. 

Free time during weekdays? Think about attending a prayer vigil outside Congressman LoBiondo’s office.

For a handful of weeks now, Catholics have been gathering outside of Congressman LoBiondo’s Mays Landing office for a couple hours a day to pray for the Congressman and for immigration reform. The group is hoping to involve more people from a wider area in the diocese. Email me at michael [dot] laskey [at] camdendiocese [dot] org for more info on the vigils.

You can also call our Senators to thank them both for voting in favor of reform.

NJ Senators Menendez (part of the Gang of Eight that composed the bill) and Chiesa voted in favor of reform yesterday. Call them to thank them and urge them to keep up the good work. They’ll likely have to vote again on whatever the House comes up with, and we want to make sure the path to citizenship and family unity priorities are maintained no matter what.

Senator Robert Menendez: 202.224.4744
Senator Jeffrey Chiesa: 202.224.3224

Catholics from the diocese dropping off immigration reform postcards at Senator Menendez's office. Follow-up phone calls are now needed!

Catholics from the diocese dropping off immigration reform postcards at Senator Menendez’s office. Follow-up phone calls are now needed!

The USCCB issued a statement after yesterday’s Senate vote. “Our work is not finished,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said, who serves as the chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration. “The Church will continue to fight for the rights of  migrants, both during the current debate and into the future.”

Let’s keep up the good fight in the days and weeks ahead.

And, by all means, pray. 

I quite like this one:

A Prayer For Immigrant Justice
Blessed are You, Lord God,
King of all creation.
Through Your goodness, we live in this land
that You have so richly blessed.
Help us always to recognize our
Blessings come from You
and remind us to share them
with others, especially those who come
to us today from other lands.
Help us to be generous, just, and welcoming,
as You have been and are generous to us.

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