NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Monday, April 10, designated National Day of Action on immigration reform in the United States, brought thousands of people across the country out with signs and speeches, 70 of them in front of the Harvey County Courthouse in Newton. Heidi Holliday, Andover, Kan., a senior global peace and justice studies major at Bethel College and a member of Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita, organized the group, mostly members of Hispanos Unidos, the Newton chapter of Sunflower Community Action. Holliday works part-time as an organizer for the Newton group.
Two of Holliday’s hall-mates at Bethel, Nereyda Alvarado, a junior from Plains, Kan., and Laurie Steffen, a sophomore from Cunningham, Kan., along with Leia Lawrence and Karen Kaufman Wall of Mennonite Central Committee Central States, joined the members and friends of Hispanos Unidos in the rally.
At issue is HR 4437, also known as the Sensenbrenner-King bill, passed by the House of Representatives just before Christmas 2005. HR 4437 would, among other things, make being in the United States illegally a felony--putting 11 million undocumented immigrants at risk of arrest, detention and deportation--and criminalize church workers and social service providers who aid illegal immigrants with food, shelter, transportation or legal advice.
Kaufman Wall noted that opposing HR 4437 is a current priority for MCC, which recently went on record stating it would continue to serve illegal immigrants even if the bill becomes law.
Marathana Prothro, creative manager for Mennonite Church USA, brought the Newton protesters some buttons that Susan Mark Landis, peace advocate for MC USA’s Peace and Justice Support Network, made as part of the denomination’s response to current immigration "reform" initiatives.
MC USA’s delegate assembly passed a "Statement on Immigration" in July 2003 and has more recently worked to create resources that encourage congregations and area conferences to contact lawmakers regarding HR 4437.