40 Faith Leaders Across Miami-Dade Delivered an Interfaith Letter for Immigrants Rights

Jeanette Smith - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

40 Faith Leaders Across Miami-Dade Delivered an Interfaith Letter for Immigrants Rights, Urging Commissioners to Vote Their Consciences on Feb 17th
Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith leaders highlighted growing anxieties within their congregations and called for just policies that protect, not endanger, immigrants

Miami, Florida – Less than forty-eight hours after a group of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish activists launched a 90-hour interfaith fast for immigrants rights, 40 faith leaders endorsed an interfaith letter voicing collective concerns and recommendations to the Miami-Dade County’s Board of County Commissioners. The interfaith letter, which was is scheduled to be delivered this afternoon to the Board’s offices in the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, called upon the Board to uphold their original 2013 immigration policy in lieu of embracing policy changes that could further endanger immigrant communities.

On Friday, February 17th, the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) is anticipated to re-examine a county-wide immigration policy, which the Board lauded for its ability to balance cost effectiveness and fairness with critical public safety concerns. Three years after the Board unanimously approved this immigration policy, Mayor Carlos Gimenez unsettled immigrant communities across the county by inexplicably announcing an executive action that undermined the public safety, cost-effectiveness, and fairness of the 2013 policy, which he initially supported. In response to Gimenez’s executive action, immigrant communities have expressed feeling fear, panic, and confusion. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith leaders across Miami-Dade County are disturbed by a range of troubling concerns that immigrants within their congregations have expressed.

You, as our commissioners, have the opportunity to protect these residents of Miami-Dade County. We ask that you continue to exercise respect for human and civil rights by safeguarding the integrity of our diverse community and upholding your 2013 decision,” wrote the leaders. “We embrace the faith principle of welcoming the stranger, and we call on you, our county commissioners, to advance policies that are inclusive and welcoming and that strengthen local protections for affected members of our community.”

“It is a moral imperative to protect immigrant members of our community and their families, particularly in South Florida, a region that is home to the fifth largest undocumented community in the United States,” said Archdeacon Jean Fritz Bazin of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. “The diversity of our community is a blessing that is at the core of our collective identity as Miami-Dade residents.”

“The potential vote on the 17th marks a turning point for Miami-Dade County. How do we envision our future? Will we be a county that embraces immigrants and values compassion over fear? Or a place that endangers immigrants and values division over solidarity?” questioned Bazin.

“The fundamental duty of every parent is to protect their children, even if it means tearing up their roots and leaving their home countries to seek refuge in another. The world is in turmoil as never before in history. We are being challenged to expand our idea of who is our neighbor,” said Kathy Hersh, Clerk of the Miami Friends Meeting (Quakers). “We accept immigrants and refugees as our neighbors and we ask the Miami-Dade Commission to do the same and to honor these dutiful parents and their children who choose life."

“In the face of growing xenophobia across the country, faith communities are finding their beliefs challenged as the momentum grows to demonstrate moral leadership,” commented Jeanette Smith, Executive Director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice.

Faith leaders hope that the county commission will heed the concerns of the hundreds of thousands of congregants throughout the community who look to their elected officials to exhibit principled and compassionate leadership. Clergy and congregants will be present on February 17th to testify during the County’s special hearing on immigration.

South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice (SFIWJ) is an association of many diverse religious leaders throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties who respond to the crisis of the working poor. Established in 1998, SFIWJ is one of over 60 affiliates of the national Interfaith Worker Justice network based in Chicago. SFIWJ's volunteer Board of Directors is comprised of faith leaders from various religious and ethnic traditions.

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