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Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN) sponsored an important meeting on Immigration Reform at Casa Grande United Methodist Church in Casa Grande, Arizona, on August 28, 2013. Five folks from St. Philip’s joined about 140 other people from across the state to learn more about the U.S. Congressional debate on Immigration Reform and to discuss how to push forward and achieve humanitarian immigration reform. Attending from St. Philip’s were Rev. Canon John Kitagawa, Rev. Leah Sandwell-Weiss, Patsy and Charles Stewart, and Bonnie Winn.

the St. Philip's contingent

Senator John McCain and Representative Raul Grijalva accepted AIN’s invitation to all Arizona U.S. Representatives and Senators to address the assembled group and respond to questions and concerns. Both Sen. McCain and Rep. Grijalva emphasized how important it is that faith-based communities and individuals voice their support for immigration reform. Sen. McCain emphasized that immigration reform is very important for Americans and the American way of life — “the Big Picture of America” — a welcoming people. Rep. Grijalva said our nation’s moral fabric is to respect and welcome all people. If we don’t do this now, the ideals and course of the country will be changed.

Overview of AIN efforts

Sen. McCain reported that more than 70% of Arizonans favor immigration reform, but the opposition is vocal and committed. Getting a bill to the House floor for a vote is the first hurdle.  Both McCain and Grijalva stated that there are enough votes in the House to pass some form of immigration reform, but so far the vocal minority (and unexpressed public opinion) has kept that from happening. Grijalva said that resistance in the House is based on political calculations, not what’s in the legislation. It is their feeling that once a bill is passed by the House and then goes to conference, the necessary compromises between Senate and House for joint legislation can be achieved. Timing for any action on House legislation is Fall and Winter 2013.

Bishops in attendance

While Sen. McCain and Rep. Grijalva may not agree on several aspects of the S.744 passed by the Senate in June, they emphatically agreed that a path to citizenship is vital to immigration reform. They emphasized the incredible positive economic impact that reform would have for the country and specifically what job creation would add to AZ’s economy. The controversies surrounding border security were discussed, with McCain stating that the U.S. has the technology to secure the border, emphasizing securing the border from coyotes, drugs, and weapons trafficking. Grijalva wants a bill to reach the House floor in order to expand the definition of security to include economic security.

The last part of the meeting concerned what action members of the AIN can take:

  • Engage members of our congregations in conversation;
  • Educate congregation members;
  • Step out — be visible — use the pulpit;
  • Designate one Sunday when the message is Immigration Reform all across the state. Sponsor rallies in local communities on one day across the state;
  • Discuss the issues with other interested groups:  Chambers of Commerce, corporations, agricultural interests, etc.;
  • Be assertive.  Communicate with your Senators and Representatives!

For more information, contact the Rev. Leah Sandwell-Weiss or Bonnie Winn.

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