A crowd waited expectantly on the sidewalk in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. Then someone shouted, “Here comes their bus!” A bystander asked, “Who’s playing tonight, Justin Bieber?”
“Even better,” responded a fan. “It’s Nuns on the Bus!”
In July, a group of 44 Catholic nuns launched a 6,500-mile, 15-state, 22-day bus tour to urge Congress to pass a common sense immigration reform bill with a pathway to citizenship in 2013. The tour started in the Northeast, passed through the South, the plains of Texas, and border towns throughout the Southwest before ending in the shadows of Angel Island in San Francisco.
Along the way, “Nuns on the Bus” drew attention to the services faith leaders provide along the border and told the stories of families torn apart by America’s broken immigration system. The tour was led by Network, a Catholic social justice lobby headed by Sister Simone Campbell, the Sister of Social Service who made headlines with a similar bus tour last summer to denounce Republican budget cuts in the House of Representatives.
After 53 stops throughout the U.S., the nuns encouraged supporters to keep up the tough fight that faced them in Congress. Inspiring hundreds of activists at every stop, they generated hundreds of targeted television and print hits in key markets, 727 calls to Congress in favor of immigration reform, and lobby visits at dozens of key Congressional offices.
These nuns aren’t the only sector of the Church taking unprecedented action. In mid-July, 62 prominent theologians and the presidents of more than 90 Catholic colleges and universities signed a letter urging Catholic members of the House to support comprehensive immigration reform.
The letter earned signatures from leaders of the country’s most prominent Catholic schools, including many found in districts of strategically targeted Catholic members of Congress.
“We remind you that no human being made in the image of God is illegal,” said the letter, addressed to all 163 Catholic legislators, including House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“Our Catholic faith teaches us to help the less fortunate than ourselves,” said John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America. “More prosperous nations have an obligation to help those who come to their borders seeking security or employment. The United States—as the richest nation on earth—has the foremost obligation to do so."
“Not only will a roadmap to citizenship honor traditional Catholic principles of justice and solidarity, but here in Ohio it will strengthen our universities and help reinvigorate our economy,” said Daniel Curran, president of the University of Dayton.
Thanks to these powerful voices weighing in on the issue, backed by the moral and political weight of the Catholic Church, immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship stands a chance.