Patrick Springer, Published June 13 2013
Local pastors, businesses urge immigration reformMOORHEAD – A coalition of local religious, business and labor leaders called Thursday for comprehensive immigration reform providing a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
Proponents of legislation before Congress to overhaul immigration laws pointed to a new poll showing that North Dakotans favor immigration reform by a majority of more than 3-to-1.
The poll showed that 68 percent of 507 North Dakota respondents strongly or somewhat support bipartisan immigration reform legislation in Washington, with 19 percent strongly or somewhat opposed.
The telephone survey, conducted by Harper Polling June 4 and 5, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.35 percent.
In pushing for reforms, advocates made impassioned religious, humanitarian and economic arguments.
An estimated 11 million people in the United States live in a shadow world without legal documents. Two from Fargo-Moorhead were introduced when religious and labor leaders gathered to urge reforms.
Grace Nagbe, who just graduated from West Fargo High School, came as an infant with her family, refugees from Liberia, where a bloody civil was being fought.
Although the Nagbes entered the country legally, they became undocumented when paperwork was mishandled, Grace said.
As a result, she cannot work or start college studies. She aims to become a pediatrician.
“There has to be protection and a voice for those of us who have followed the law,” she said.
Mark Froemke, of Grand Forks, a labor leader who is a member of the Western Minnesota Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, read a statement from a 24-year-old he called Jose.
The man had come at age 13 to Fargo with his parents, who had emigrated without papers from Mexico. Although his father has worked for more than 30 years and paid taxes for Social Security and Medicare, he will not be able to draw benefits from those programs.
“We are honorable and decent and hardworking people,” Jose said in the statement.
If the United States allowed a path to citizenship for immigrants who followed the law, “We would be free from the fear that is with us every second of every day of our lives,” he said.
A Catholic priest and two Lutheran pastors spoke in favor of immigration reform on religious and humanitarian grounds. Deportation for immigration violations divide families, said the Rev. Luke Meyer, chancellor of the Fargo Catholic Diocese.
“Family unity is a key principle for us,” he said. “We support family unity as a cornerstone for immigration reform.”
The Rev. Peter Schmidt, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in West Fargo, and his wife raised two foster sons who were refugees from Vietnam. Both now are successful business owners and citizens.
“I can say our country is better off and much enriched,” through contributions from immigrants, Schmidt said. “That has fed our nation from the beginning. We are a nation of immigrants.”
Andy Peterson, president of the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, said a path to legalization, and perhaps citizenship, would help fill labor demands.
“As a society as a whole we’re aging,” he said. “We’ll soon have an exodus from the workforce,” through baby boomer retirements.