A delegation of Los Angeles faith leaders visited the U.S.-Mexico border at San Diego-Tijuana last week on an information gathering tour to survey the border environment in order to better understand the complexities and challenges of immigration reform. In Mexico, faith leaders met with immigration reform advocates, public policy experts, immigration attorneys and heard personal testimony from persons adversely affected by American immigration laws, particularly those displaced from family members still living in the United States, as part of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders’ (LACRL) “One Voice For Comprehensive Immigration Reform” initiative. The delegation, led by Rabbi Mark Diamond, LACRL President and Regional Director of American Jewish Committee Los Angeles, united more than 25 faith and community leaders, including the Right Rev. Alexei Smith, ecumenical and interreligious officer for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.Also participating were the Right Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, bishop suffragan of the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese; Rev. Linda Culbertson of the Presbytery of the Pacific; Rev. Gary Keene of the United Methodist Church; Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of Justice & Witness Ministries, the United Church of Christ (UCC); and Rev. Felix C. Villanueva, conference minister of the UCC. “According to biblical tradition, strangers are to be welcomed and valued,” said Rabbi Diamond. “This notion is not limited to any one faith or ethnic community; it is a shared multi-faith obligation to those who flee persecution, wish to reunite with their families, or simply seek the freedom and opportunity that we cherish in America.”The current immigration system is “badly broken, and necessary action is urgent,” he continued. “In addition to shining a light on the harsh realities of this problem, the study tour provided our interfaith delegation an invaluable opportunity to witness firsthand how severely broken our system has become and explore the complexities of this issue, including national security concerns and the plight of immigrant communities.”The delegation crossed the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro, the world’s busiest land border crossing, where Interstate 5, just south of San Diego, crosses into Mexico at Tijuana. In Mexico, the delegation visited a number of significant locations including the community of Chilpancingo, an extremely impoverished area home to high numbers of U.S. deportees, many of whom are children. Leaders also surveyed the “border fence” at several points, including the recently completed section that runs the fence into the Pacific Ocean, and visited Casa de Las Pobres (House of the Poor), a safe haven for many women and children affected by deportation and separation from family members in the United States. Father Smith said the experience at Casa de los Pobres was especially vivid. He spoke in Spanish with one of the nuns, who shared that “what she and the other Sisters there offer most to those who come to Casa for assistance is simply a 'listening ear' — the opportunity for one human being to respect the dignity of another human being who happens to be in great need by looking them in the eye and listening to them. In this whole quest for immigration reform, perhaps we can all learn something from these wonderful nuns.”“It is a powerful witness to the world at large when leaders of different faiths join together to explore the issues and corporately call on our government for extensive immigration reform,” said Bishop Glasspool. “Our interfaith pilgrimage across the border into Tijuana left me with an incredible range of emotions — outrage, shame, compassion, love, deep sorrow, and beyond the feelings, the determination to do all that I can to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. “As a person of faith, I am bound to share with others what I experienced first-hand, and to work hard to help all people live their lives with the dignity and respect due to a Child of God, which is to say, every human being.”The Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders includes judicatory officials from AJC Los Angeles, the Armenian Apostolic Church (Western Diocese), the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Pacific Southwest Region, the Church of the Brethren Pacific Southwest Division, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southwest Synod, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the United Church of Christ Southern California Nevada Conference, and the United Methodist Church Los Angeles Area.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0308/interfaith/{/gallery}