Mississippians of different faiths pray for immigration reform

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Some South Mississippians are joining people across the nation who are supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Rallies and marches took place Wednesday in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and other cities where people advocated giving legal status and a clear path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Right now, a group of lawmakers in Congress is trying to put together a new immigration bill. Here at home, reform supporters are hoping to help immigrant families by appealing to a higher authority.

Jews and Muslims. Catholics and Protestants. Different faiths gathered with a common prayer of compassion for our country's immigrants no matter what their legal status.

Rev. Lashaundra Smith of First Christian Church in Gulfport said, "Welcoming the stranger and being hospitable is the crux of faith. I think when policies get involved is when we forget that we're actually talking about people. So I think the faith community needs to step up and add that voice to the conversation."

The service was put together by El Pueblo, a Hispanic immigrant outreach ministry. Prayers were also said for federal leaders tasked with dealing with immigration policy.

"Our current immigration system has such lengthy lengthy waits and such a difficult process for family members to be reunited," said Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley of Seashore Mission in Biloxi. "As our country works toward comprehensive immigration reform we really want the unifying of families to be a priority there."

Swaim-Presley said, "We also believe strongly in the human rights of migrant workers and people even those who are undocumented that God loves us all and requires that we treat one another with human dignity."

The Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force is concerned that immigrants in the country illegally are more vulnerable in natural disasters because they don't know about resources or are afraid to pursue them.

"They need to have a sense that they really belong to the community. That they're not just marginalized," said Graham. "For us, it's about bringing them to the table.

A table full of tasty dishes from El Salvador, Jamaica and other countries all over the world reminded people here that the foundation of their faith is love.

"Love your neighbor as yourself as Jesus said," said Swaim-Presley. "So it's so important for us as people of faith to take the lead in loving our neighbors."

There were also some protests against amnesty in other parts of the country. Those who oppose a reform bill said it rewards people who enter the country illegally and will place a massive burden on the welfare system.

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