Congress: What kind of nation do you wish us to be?

Congress: What kind of nation do you wish us to be? September 24, 2019

Yesterday, I spoke at a rally in front of the Capitol, as we joined with NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and others to deliver a letter from over six thousand people of faith to Congress, calling on them to act for immigration justice. Below is what I said. Rev. Jennifer Butler speaks at an Immigration rally

We are gathered today to seek freedom, safety and dignified treatment of all God’s children, regardless of where they were born, or how they arrived at the US border.

We are gathered to lament the oppression of God’s people who immigrate, who seek asylum, in search of a better life. And we gather to call the people who labor under that Capitol to take action and rein in a corrupt, cruel, racist president.  

I’ll tell you as a mother, that when your baby’s life is in danger, there is nothing you won’t do to get them to safety. 

When climate change creates devastating food shortages in your home country, there is no desert you won’t cross to feed your daughter. 

When a violent gang or an authoritarian regime backed by the US government comes to your door to draft your young son, there is no risk you won’t take to keep their hands off of him.

When a hurricane lays waste to your island, there’s no hoop you won’t jump through to put a roof over your family’s head again. 

That’s love, that’s courage, that’s the holiness and humanity God breathes into every one of us.

That love is what drove Mary to flee with baby Jesus. It’s what drives asylum-seeking families, refugees and many immigrants today. These people deserve to be welcomed into this country.

The United States proclaims the values of dignity and safe harbor for people yearning to breathe free.

But we have a President who acts like the wicked King Herod who tried to kill the baby Jesus. And we have a Congress that has failed to rein him in.

That must stop. Congress must use its authority to cut funding the agencies that are terrorizing our immigrant neighbors at the border and in our backyards. A family that braves smugglers and the desert must be welcomed and brought in, not tear gassed and locked up in squalid prison camps. 

A family that puts down roots in communities like El Paso, or Atlanta, or Cincinnati belongs together and free at home, not ripped apart by ICE and deported. 

As an American, I believe that “We the people” means all of us, and as a pastor I believe that which you do to the asylum seeker among us and the undocumented among us you do to Jesus. 

So Congress, I ask, whom do you serve? Do you serve we the people, or do you serve that imitator of King Herod? Your choice is clear. History is watching and people of faith in your states and districts are watching.

Here are three things we the people of faith call you to do:

  • First: Keep families together. Get every last person out of the camps, invest in community-based alternatives to detention, and reunite every family that’s been torn apart.
  • Second: Fully fund refugee resettlement and asylum, and cut funding for cruelty. How we spend public money must reflect our nation’s best values, not its darkest impulses. As the climate crisis accelerates and conflict spreads at cyber speed, the most powerful nation on earth should welcome more people, not build a worthless wall, lock people in prison camps or deport members of our communities.
  • Third: Exercise oversight for how ICE and border patrol use our money. Withhold funding that enables them to raid communities, separate families, and detain children and families. 

Congress faces a moral test in the current budget debate. It is a matter of right and wrong, not dollars and cents. They must answer the question: what kind of nation do they wish us to be?

As a pastor and a mom, and the founder of a network of 50,000 faith leaders nationwide, I call on every member of Congress to honor the dignity of everyone who comes to this land in search of a better life for their families. Show us that you really love your neighbors. Show us you really have family values. Show us that you believe the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of our nation at its best, not a relic of the past.


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