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Church members demonstrate for – and against – proposed immigration reforms

Abel Alvarez was 5 when he and his mother left Mexico for the United States. They had been living under a tree for several weeks, dividing meager food rations, trying to stay alive while they filled out the necessary paperwork for legal immigration status. “I know desperation,” said Alvarez, 45, co-minister of the Harvey Drive church, McAllen, Texas. “But even though we were in crisis, we followed the laws of the land.”

Those laws soon may change, as Congressdebates legislation that would define the status and support of an estimated 11million illegal immigrants in the United States.
And with President Bush’s pledge on May15 to send 6,000 National Guard troops to patrol the nation’s borders, churchmembers are struggling to find a spiritual answer to a problem now debated on apolitical stage.
Church members for and against thechanges have protested and picketed across the country in recent weeks.Organizers with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition saidmembers of Churches of Christ were among the 8,000 people who turned out insupport of a protest against immigration laws in Nashville in late April.
In Florida, police say a minister inApopka was removed without incident during an anti-protest demonstration on May1. In Texas, church members on both sides of the issue were quoted in nationalnews reports.
Jose Gonzales, a member of the Iglesiade Cristo (Church of Christ) in El Paso, Texas, said he worries about extendedfamily members who don’t have the same legal status as he and his wife Carmen,who both work for the El Paso Independent School District.
“You cannot read Matthew 25 and (verse)40 and come away without a picture of what must be done for those in need, whocome here only wanting to take care of their families,” said Gonzales, who saidhe has participated in three rallies this year.
“We must remember that people and soulsare at stake.”

June 1, 2006

Filed under: National Staff Reports

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