By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two hundred leaders of various faiths have signed an open letter to Pennsylvania’s elected officials in Congress, demanding a bigger push for comprehensive immigration reform.
At a press conference today in center city, their message was that immigration is not just a legal and economic issue, but a moral one.
“What’s happening is wrong, and we need the attention of everyone in this country to make it right,” said Peter Pedemonti of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia. He says more than two million immigrants have been deported since President Obama took office.
Pedemonti says Obama was re-elected, in part, because he vowed he would fix immigration, and now it’s time to make good on that promise.
“Obama made a promise and everyone still remembers that,” he said. “So if Congress doesn’t act, it’s on Obama to act.”
Interfaith leaders from around Philadelphia stood together today outside the Arch Street United Methodist Church, at Broad and Arch Streets, to send a call for action to elected officials.
“For faith leaders, their congregations have immigrants, have US citizens, have mixed-status families — they see the human cost of our broken immigration system,” according to Sundrop Carter of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizen Coalition, which organized the letter to elected officials.
“We are calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that treats people with dignity and respect,” she said.
Katherine Ellis, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration, in Mt. Airy, says the biggest fear that families have is separation. She says family and love is the centerpiece of why people migrate to America.
“People come because because they love their family and they’re not able to support their family as they wish to,” she says. “Separation can destroy these families.”
The group told stories of immigrant families torn apart by deportation, many times forced to leave children behind because a simple traffic violation can trigger a deportation hearing.
The faith leaders say unjust deportations must be stopped and immigration legislation must move forward.
“The time is now,” says Pedemonti. “It’s a moral issue. And we as people of faith know it’s time to step up. This is wrong and we need everybody in the country to help us make this right.”