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Vigil promotes justice for immigrants

July 29, 2010

Yesterday in Grand Rapids about 100 people came together to offer up written and verbal prayers for those in the immigrant community faced with separation from family, harassment and other forms of repression that confront them.

People representing the Christian Reformed Church, local Methodists, other Protestants, Catholics and members of the Jewish community shared prayers in both English and Spanish, prayers that called for dignity, respect and open arms for immigrants in West Michigan.

Kim deLong said, “Because families are the cornerstone of a healthy society, we pray for reforms in our family-based immigration system that reduce the time families must wait to be reunited.” This was one of many prayers that focused on the desire to keep immigrant families together.

Other speakers focused on the realities of migrant labor. Liz Balck, an immigration attorney said, “We pray for those who endure long days, hot sun, little water, and homesickness in order to put food on American tables. We pray for immigrants who travel across borders to fill jobs we rely on, and yet are shunned from participation in our culture and lifestyles.”

Some speakers focused on immigration policy and elected officials. “We pray that our leaders would examine solutions to address the root causes of migration, such as vast economic disparities between rich and poor nations. We pray for economic justice throughout the world. We do not believe that our lifestyle must be lived at the expense of the suffering of people in other countries. We do not accept that there are no better solutions than the policies we have today,” said Peter Vander Meulen, with the Office of Social Justice for the Christian Reformed Church.

Before he offered up a prayer, Vander Meulen said he was fielding phone calls all day, some of which were critical of the CRCs role as advocates for immigrants. “People asked me what we were doing getting involved in the immigration problem and I told them why aren’t you involved in trying to fix a system that is unjust and keep families apart?”

In addition to the verbal prayers that were offered, people were invited to write statements, prayers and desires on pieces of paper with images of feet. The pieces of paper where then attached to a long piece of material, which will eventually be sent to Michigan lawmakers as a way of telling them to not support a proposed bill on immigrant that would be similar to the one adopted by Arizona.

Afterwards, we had an opportunity to speak with Kate Kooyman, with the CRC Office of Social Justice and one of the organizers of the vigil.

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