The 21st Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Interfaith Retreat on Social Justice
took place June 16 and 17, 2009, with over one hundred guests and speakers fully engaged in the topic of immigration. From diverse religious leaders and city agencies who provide needed social services that help immigrants integrate, to representatives of the New Sanctuary Movement, Riverside’s Sojourners, American Friends Service Committee, and Cabrini Immigrant Services, the stories of of immigrants who bring their hopes and dreams to the United States came to the fore. For more than 12 million immigrants living in the US who are undocument, the system is rigid and inhumane. Families are at risk of being torn apart due to deportation proceedings and workers struggle with unfair wages and degraded labor conditions. Others struggle even if their papers are in order, without access to needed city services, health care, and language barriers.
The movement to reform US immigration laws is rapidly becoming a faith-led cause. Immigration reform activist Patty Kupfer of America’s Voice galvanized faith-leader attendees to come forward as moral champions. She urged them to publicize the stories of struggling immigrant congregants with to help put a human face on the immigration debate. At the municipal level, speakers from the Queens Public Library, the New York Police Department and the Health and Hospitals Corporation described efforts to better educate and serve immigrants.
There was a sense of momentum and hope from many on the front lines of the reform battle as the movement for change becomes more organized nationally and even internationally. ICNY’s James Parks Morton International Visiting Fellows from Barcelona, Spain, and Glasgow, Scotland, spoke both informally and within a panel to the group. They welcomed collaboration between countries to better understand and assist immigrants who leave loved ones and livelihoods to immigrate.
The visiting fellows from Barcelona and Spain continue their weeklong visit to New York City with trips to Queens, East Harlem, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and Friday and Sunday religious services. On Monday they will meet and talk informally with NYC Human Rights Commissioner Patricia Gatling.
On Tuesday June 23 from 9am to 11am, ICNY invites religious leaders to attend a roundtable on Hate Crimes & Immigration, part of ICNY’s innovative Religious Communities and the Court System program. Attorneys from the District Attorney’s office will be the guest speakers. The program will take place at 111 Centre Street, in the 12th floor boardroom of the New York City Civil Court. Reservations name, address, phone, email) are required at 212 870-3515 or email@example.com
Finally, on Wednesday, June 24 at 3pm, interested members of the public are invited to the visiting fellows’ Closing Symposium at the Union Theological Seminary. Our new international friends will have the opportunity to reflect on their time with us and share their thoughts and experiences.