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Kennedy Joins Immigrant Families At Inter-Faith Service

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Location: Washington, DC


KENNEDY JOINS IMMIGRANT FAMILIES AT INTER-FAITH SERVICE

Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy spoke at the Metropolitan AME Church at an interfaith service attended by families in support of immigration reform and participants of the Dreams Across America train tour.
Immigrant children from across the U.S. and faith leaders are in Washington to push for the Senate to act on a bill. After the service, pushing strollers and carrying red, white and blue balloons, thousands gathered in solidarity as immigrant children delivered a father's day card to President Bush, symbolizing the many fathers who are separated from their families because of our country's broken immigration laws.

The Dreams Across America participants are children of immigrants who have traveled by train from Los Angeles, San Antonio, Chicago, Miami, New York and Boston to share their personal stories along the seven-day ride to the Nation's Capital.

Below is Senator Kennedy's statement, as prepared for delivery.

STATEMENT OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY ON IMMIGRATION REFORM AT THE METROPOLITIAN AME CHURCH

(As prepared for delivery)

I commend the Center for Community Change and the Dreams For America tour for making your voices heard loud and clear. And thank you to the leaders of faith who are here for your dedication, your insight and your ability to motivate your congregations to support this historic effort for human dignity and respect. I very much look forward to our continuing work together. I am proud that families from Massachusetts are here and are part of this important journey.

The urgent issue before us is about the future of America. It is about our pride for our immigrant past and in pride for our immigrant future.

In the New York harbor, the gateway to America, there stands a statue that represents the enduring virtue of what has made this nation great, a beacon on a hill. At her feet, on the pedestal on which she stands are inscribed these words:

"Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to be free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shores.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

And at the heart of the issue of immigration is hope. Hope for a better life for hard working people and their families. Hope for the children.

Most of all this issue is about our children. Thank you for making that clear today and for bringing that important message to the nation's leaders.

It is the children our hearts go out to most when immigration raids tear families apart.

One of these raids took place in March in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Hundreds of armed police and immigration officers raided a factory, creating panic among the workers. They handcuffed unarmed men and women who were already suffering gross indignities at the hands of their employer. We saw the appalling photographs of children left bewildered and crying by a government operation reeking of callousness.

In the hours that followed, children were left without their parents, pregnant women were detained, and family members sought desperately to locate their loved ones.

Soon after the raid, I visited some of the families whose lives had been turned upside down. We met in a small church basement, and I was deeply moved by the stories I heard. These are individuals who came to this country because they believe in the American Dream for themselves and their children.

There are children here who are just beginning to learn their Bible. But because they are with us today, I know they will understand that our shared religion is, in many ways, the story of immigrants.

When they read about Noah, they will realize that he took a perilous journey from the land of his birth.

When they read about Moses, they will understand that he led his people to the promised land, even when it meant crossing borders.

And when they hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, they will recognize that human kindness does not require a green card.

From that story we learn the great truth that those who travel far from their lands of their birth, even at the risk of scorn and abuse, can become people who are uniquely able to understand and meet the needs of others.

The great humanity of our brothers and sisters in this struggle has never been more eloquently expressed than in the Prayer of the Farm Workers' Struggle written by Cesar Chavez. He prayed, and I hope you will pray with me.

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people's plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.

Give me honesty and patience;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world
Amen


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