Where do we go from here? – Is there any hope for comprehensive immigration reform?

For those who have been involved in efforts to encourage comprehensive immigration reform – whether within social, political, or religious networks – these last few months have been frustrating, if not discouraging.

Once again, Congress is at a stalemate. The Republicans continue with the desire to neutralize President Obama’s executive action of late November of last year or to eliminate provisions one-by-one. A U.S. district judge in Texas has placed a preliminary injunction on the implementation of that presidential order. The injunction was a response to a lawsuit brought by 26 states that is designed to overturn it as unconstitutional.  The Justice Department has filed a motion with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn the injunction. The hearing is set for April 17th. Clearly, this is all messy business, and whatever unfolds will generate yet more anger and ill will.

Humanly speaking, on the national landscape and in state legislatures there is not much that gives hope to those desiring change, both immigrants themselves and those who stand with them. Many of those who do not have legal status continue to lose trust in this country’s legal system and in its legislative and political system. Two experiences, however, have given me energy to keep working to make a difference – one grounded in faith commitments, the other focused largely on local efforts by advocacy groups.

On March 4th national evangelical leaders, who head up educational institutions, denominations, or ministries, gathered in Atlanta to ask, “Where do we go from here?” Discussions based on faith commitments and experiences from around the country reminded all those attending that there is a divine mandate that shines through whatever the sociocultural situation might project. Therein also lies the challenge. Recent polling reveals how minimal is influence of the biblical material on migration within evangelical local churches and on personal views. In other words, there is still much work to be done at the grassroots level. It is then, not only having hope, it is a question of getting back to the task of sharing what God has to say about all of this.

One week later to the day I was at a meeting called by one of the area U.S. Representatives during a recess from Washington. Although some faith leaders were present, those who spoke up more were representatives on advocacy groups, who are involved in helping immigrants with various kinds of legal advice. To watch this was a reminder again that, even though there is much to do in the nation’s capital, there are individuals and families in the here and now that need help. Again, the grassroots. In addition, it reinforced the importance of those of faith learning to work with and learning from those within the secular realm.

Where do we go from here? We move forward, trusting in the efforts on the ground with God’s help and hand-in-hand with others.

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