WATERLOO, Iowa — The faith leaders came from different backgrounds — Catholic, Methodist, evangelical Lutheran, Jewish. They spoke in Spanish, Hebrew and English.
But the message Monday night at the Postville anniversary vigil in Waterloo was one of solidarity. The pastors stood for God and also for immigration reform.
“You, without a visa, created the light, and it was good,” said the Rev. Dennis Coon of Kimball Avenue United Methodist Church in Waterloo. “You, without a green card, created the sky; and it was good. You without a Social Security number, created the sun and the stars; and they were good.”
Dozens gathered in the pews at Blessed Sacrament Church in Waterloo for the service and later walked to the National Cattle Congress to say prayers and light candles, one year to the day after federal immigration officials conducted a raid on Postville’s Agriprocessors plant and arrested hundreds.
The raid netted 389 workers who were processed at a temporary court at the National Cattle Congress’s Electric Park Ballroom.
The raid ignited a heated debate on immigration that continues, said the Rev. Jose Comparan of Queen of Peace Parish in Waterloo.
“Why don’t people (immigrate) the right way? Because there is no other way, in reality,” he said. “It is a broken system.”
The Rev. Lyle Wilgenbusch, episcopal vicar for the Waterloo region Archdiocese of Dubuque, told the story of a woman who worked with her husband at the church. Her husband, a deacon, had just received his documentation as a legal citizen. But the woman, who was in the process of receiving her documentation, was deported before it arrived.
“Call or e-mail your legislator. Please do not let them be inactive on this issue,” Wilgenbusch said. “We all know too well what inaction will allow to continue.”
Dave Cushing, the director of adult faith formation with the Waterloo Catholic church system, organized the vigil and said it was important not only for families affected by the raid but for others in the surrounding communities.
“I hope Anglo-American citizens are concerned about the broken policy we have. I hope Anglo-American citizens see an invitation to dialogue about what we can do,” Cushing said.
Rabbi Stanley Rosenbaum of Sons of Jacob Synagogue in Waterloo said it is natural for different denominations to come together on an issue like immigration. “The issue of fairness is biblical and prophetic — equality and basic human compassion demands we do something,” he said. “We are one human family.”
A prayer service and vigil will take place at 3:30 p.m. today at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville, followed by a procession to Agriprocessors,.
The vigils are among hundreds of events around the country calling for comprehensive immigration reform. Groups from across the Midwest will travel to Postville today.