Whatever one may think about the United States’ immigration situation and the most reasonable way to address it, there’s little question that progressive interests have organized their response.
Days after Arizona signed a law giving its police and immigration forces a mandate to enforce current illegal immigration statutes, events around the country were planned in protest. These events weren’t the product of the undocumented workers themselves but were, rather, the effort of progressive organizations that work among religious bodies to demand “comprehensive immigration reform,” among other things (such as universal health care reform).
The Church World Service, the National Council of Churches, Sojourners and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference – two groups whose principal leaders are part of the Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships – the Christian Community Development Association, and the political-media network with which they operate, Faith in Public Life, are principal actors in this opposition on the national level. [Bob Allen, “Faith leaders protest Arizona’s anti-immigration law,” Associated Baptist Press, 4-27-10]
The Faith in Public Life network includes many of the major Alinskyian community organizations and their local affiliates…and they are all working on immigration “reform.” In Dallas, for instance, Dallas Area Interfaith, an affiliate of Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation, worked with several other religious institutions to support an immigration march in the city that demanded legalization undocumented workers in the US and protesting the Arizona law. [Dianne Solis, “Religious leaders declare support for Dallas immigration march,” Dallas News, 4-30-10]
In New York City, Queens Congregations United for Action used an already scheduled vigil to protest the unwelcome direction immigration reform is taking. “What is going on in parts of our country is not good,” said the pastor of the event’s hosting church. “We must work to change unjust laws.” Queens Congregations United for Action is the local affiliate of the PICO community organizing network. [Nate Schweber, “Queens Vigil Protests Arizona Immigration Law,” NY Times, 5-2-10]
Yet another Alinskyian organizing network, the Gamaliel Foundation, was instrumental in Milwaukee-area immigration protests. At an earlier event that called for an end of deportation and detention, “[s]ome in the crowd chanted ‘Si Se Puede,’ Spanish for ‘Yes, it can be done’ – a rallying cry of Cesar Chavez and a slogan of President Barack Obama’s campaign…” [Matthew Olson, “Crowd ‘fired up’ for change,” Kenosha News, 4-29-10]
In fact, the home page of the Gamaliel Foundation website, as accessed on May 3, 2010, read: “More than 300 Gamaliel Network Clergy and Leaders from across the nation continue Gamaliel’s Prayer Vigils for Fair Immigration Reform.”
Is this orchestrated?
Of course it is. When, during the 2008 presidential election, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, made the remark, “...a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities,” organizers were furious.
Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, quoting an outraged organizer who had emailed him in response, blogged, “Community organizers are now most focused in the faith community, working with tens of thousands of pastors and laypeople in thousands of congregations around the country. Faith-based organizing is the critical factor in many low-income communities in the country's poorest urban and rural areas, and church leaders are often the biggest supporters of community organizers.” [Jim Wallis, “Palin Owes Some Good People an Apology,” God’s Politics Blog, 9-5-08]
Let’s put the pieces together: Organizers from similar training backgrounds have set up similar sorts of organizational networks around the country, operating within thousands of religious institutions. An organizer, trained by these same folks, becomes the US president. Suddenly, all the Alinskyian organizing networks are working on parallel paths for the same issues, mobilizing their member churches to provide a “moral garment” for each issue (that’s an Alinskyian principle for organizing – cloak every issue in a “moral garment”) and a turnout of people, chanting the right slogans.
Then the media all around the country picks up the story, usually expressed in local terms that disguise the magnitude of what’s happening. Newspaper articles may make it sound as though there’s a spontaneous outpouring of grassroots responses to the Arizona immigration law but in truth, there’s really only one, extremely well-organized response.
And your church may be part of it.
Stephanie Block is the editor of the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos newspaper and a founder of the Catholic Media Coalition.