Three ASU alumni traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to ask Congress to prioritize immigration reform as a part of the National Strategy Session of the National Immigration Forum.
Attendee and alumnus Ian Danley graduated from ASU with a master’s degree in public policy in 2011 and has been working toward an immigration reform since 2004.
“This is one of the best opportunities we’ve had,” he said. “The election proved Latinos are a very important part of the electorate.”
More than 250 business, law enforcement and faith leaders gathered at the strategy session to emphasize the need for reform in 2013, according to a press release from the National Immigration Forum.
These leaders met with legislators on Capital Hill to encourage Congress to push for comprehensive immigration reform that would address the moral, legal and economic sides of the issue.
Danley said conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, and other politicians spoke with them during the forum.
Danley said he saw a diverse group of politicians from all ends of the political spectrum uniting around immigration reform and acknowledging the need for change.
He works for Neighborhood Ministries, a nonprofit Christian organization that helps low-income families in downtown Phoenix.
Danley was also elected this year to serve on the Phoenix Union High School Governing Board. About 75 percent of the students enrolled in the district are Hispanic.
Gary Kinnaman graduated from ASU in 1984 with a master’s degree in education administration and was a lead pastor at Word of Grace Church for 25 years.
He said the theme of the gathering was Bibles, badges and businessmen.
There is a misconception that all Christians hold strict views on immigration, Kinnaman said.
“Somehow there’s been this merge of conservative political ideas and conservative Christian values,” Kinnaman said.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties, Kinnaman said, hold some views that tie in with Biblical values.
People need to stop politicizing immigration reform and acknowledge the human element inherent in the situation, he said.
Arizona’s immigration laws have made it difficult to protect honest, hardworking people, Kinnaman said.
“With Arizona being the poster child of (tough) immigration laws, I found myself deeply troubled,” Kinnaman said.
He began speaking out for immigration reform before the passage of Senate Bill 1070. The bill’s immigration measure, otherwise known as the “show me your papers” clause, sparked national controversy.
Kinnaman said when he began encouraging change, people seemed shocked that conservative Christian leaders would fight for immigration reform.
Tyler Johnson, who attended the forum and graduated from ASU in 2001 with a master’s degree in education, said he was surprised at the passion and bipartisanship he saw on Capitol Hill.
“There is an incredible movement (toward immigration reform),” he said.
Johnson is the lead pastor at Redemption Church.
He said immigration reform became personally important to him after the church began a day laborer center in Mesa.
As he became invested workers’ lives, many of whom were illegal immigrants, he said he saw firsthand the brokenness of the immigration system.
Johnson said living in Arizona has shown him that it is impossible to address the legal side of immigration, as SB1070 tried to do, without considering the economic and moral realities of the situation.
He said he hopes through the efforts of the National Immigration Forum and the Evangelical Immigration Table people will see they want to be fair in addressing illegal immigration.
“I hope they hear compassion and a desire for righteousness and justice,” Johnson said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect name for Tyler Johnson’s church.
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