748.jpg DALLAS — Church leaders in North Texas participated in a press conference on March 23 at the Guadalupe Cathedral here. They spoke in favor of reasonable immigration reform legislation, and strongly against the “enforcement-only” proposal of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Lutheran Bishop Kevin Kanouse of the Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod warned against bills that would make it a felony crime to be an undocumented worker or to assist one. “It is time for us to be willing to lay ourselves on the line, even if it means jail and prison time.”

Kanouse then began listing ways that conscientious church people might help undocumented workers, such as providing food for the hungry or shelter for the homeless. The sentiment expressed was, “If our Legislature creates laws to arrest us for giving a drink to immigrants among us, then let us be arrested.”

Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann began with the Book of Leviticus, quoting a number of biblical passages commanding all believers to welcome foreigners and to treat them fairly. He concluded by listing the qualities of immigrant legislation that would constitute fairness, including protecting workplace rights, reuniting families and providing a path to citizenship.

Gene Lantz of North Texas Jobs with Justice said the anti-immigrant proposals would lower wages for all Americans. He said, “If it lowers wages, we’re against it!” Supporters from Unite Here, which has organized hundreds of immigrants into union locals, also talked to reporters and introduced themselves to religious leaders.

The conference was organized by Dallas Area Interfaith, the region’s largest and most comprehensive umbrella group of religious organizations. Spokesperson David Ramirez said, “We will continue to press forward” for “policies that will safeguard the rights and inherent dignity of all migrants, particularly the undocumented, including their rights as workers.”