Rolling Out

Faith leaders urge President Barack Obama: ‘Do the right thing’

Bishop Dwayne Royster (Source:, Bishop Royster's blog)
Bishop Dwayne Royster (Source:, Bishop Royster’s blog)

Clergy and immigrant justice advocates with the PICO National Network, a collection of 45 groups in 150 U.S. cities and towns committed to changing the world through faith, joined a dozen national faith, labor and community organizations today, calling on President Obama’s administration to protect vulnerable families by pardoning undocumented immigrants and people with nonviolent, federal drug offenses.

“This is about protecting families,” Richard Morales, immigration policy director for PICO says. “There is tremendous fear in our communities. This is a moral rather than legal issue. The president does have the constitutional power to grant these pardons and his needs to act.”

“We need to think about our kids, our neighbors, and their dreams,” Miguel Oaxaca, a faith leader with Together Colorado, says. “I am an immigrant, a father, a business owner, but most importantly, I am your neighbor. Today, I’m asking President Obama as a father to keep families together. I’m asking him to use his heart to see all the families that will be separated if he does not take action. Take action to help the country be stronger.”

The group urged local elected officials, governors, mayors and churches across the country to take steps to designate themselves “sanctuaries.” Such expressions of solidarity with undocumented families and other targeted communities is a moral imperative.

“When families are broken and shattered, our country is broken and shattered,” Bishop Dwayne Royster, political director for PICO National Network, shares. “Our faith traditions underscore the power of redemption. Tens of thousands of our non-violent brothers and sisters languish in prisons because of the War on Drugs. The President has the capacity and the power to release them.”

Today’s event was part of PICO’s larger efforts to raise a moral critique. It comes after promises from President-elect Trump to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants, expand Stop and Frisk, eliminate health insurance for 22 million individuals and families, and implement a dangerous registry for Muslims.

“One of the major tenets of the Christian faith is to love thy Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. Second to that is to love your neighbor as yourself,” said Pastor Greg Holston, executive director for Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild (POWER). “Our neighbors are under attack. We are urging preachers and leaders all over this nation to find those who are in danger, undocumented immigrants who need a safe place. Unless we stand up together, we will all be attacked. We have to learn to follow the tenants of our faith.”

Reyna Montoya, a faith leader from Arizona and a DACA recipient, made a heartfelt plea to break down divisions: “When I think about the moment we’re in, I think about a nation that is completely divided, without compassion and without seeing each other … Every single person in the nation has the opportunity to walk in the light or in the darkness. This is about people, our neighbors, our communities.”

The network is currently circulating a petition to deliver to the White House on December 15 that addresses pardons, clemency and sanctuary. Signatories include Sojourners, Bend the Arc Action Fund, National Employment Law Project (NELP), Peoples Action Network, the Alliance for Citizenship, Unite Here, America’s Voice, Auburn Seminary and author, professor and civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander.

In a direct plea to the president, Denise Collazo, chief of staff for PICO National Network, says, “We are asking and praying that you keep families together. Perhaps, President Obama, you were called to this position ‘for such a time as this.’ You told our nation, ‘yes we can.’ Now we’re saying to you, ‘yes you can.’ ”

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