By Emmaline Jurgena
The Catholic Messenger
Members of Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI) gathered outside the office of Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) on June 19 to call for Congress to take action on immigration reform.
The timing was fitting, as it was one year ago in June that the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, S.744, which sought to establish a better system for individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) supported the bill, titled Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, while Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) voted against it.
Despite the movement toward change by the Senate, the House of Representatives has been slow to act on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. Although Loebsack himself has previously taken pro-immigration stances, QCI hoped that holding the vigil outside of his office would send a message to the House at large.
“We are frustrated by the lack of action by our elected officials … officials are elected to vote for what constituents want,” Leslie Kilgannon, executive director of Quad Cities Interfaith, said.
QCI is made up of 23 faith-based community groups and congregations that support a common goal of improving society and supporting justice and human dignity. Supporters from the Davenport and Peoria (Ill.) dioceses, as well as members representing other congregations and groups, came to the vigil.
“We are all different religions but we work together for a common purpose, to bring justice to the world,” said Reverend Jay Wolin of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities.
Immigration reform has long been an issue that QCI has advocated for, but the group was spurred into more action recently as reports have surfaced of large numbers of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into the United States.
“Immigration was an issue months ago, but now it’s a crisis,” said Margie Mejia-Caraballo, chair of the QCI Immigration Reform Committee.
The vigil lasted approximately half an hour, and consisted of prayers for change and of solidarity, and appeals for action on immigration reform. Attendees lined the sidewalk outside of Loebsack’s office, some holding signs advocating for reform.
“We implore our president, and our Congress, to move forward with immigration reform,” Mejia-Caraballo said to those gathered at the vigil.
A Loebsack staff member joined the vigil at one point, promising to pass along QCI’s message to the congressman, and assuring those in attendance that Loebsack recognized the need for change in immigration policy.
Although the House has yet to act on immigration reform, QCI members were pleased with how the vigil went, and plan on continuing to draw attention to the need for immigration reform.
“The exposure is what’s important. We need people to understand that this is a very important issue,” George Barajas, QCI board member, said.