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On Immigration, Pope Shows Way for Ohio’s Boehner, Kasich, and DeWine

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Cleveland, OH—This morning, Pope Francis addressed Congress where he, once again, reminded Washington about the human dimensions of the immigration debate.  Standing in front of Republican leaders who blocked a comprehensive immigration reform bill and continue to demagogue immigrants and their families, the contrast between the Pope’s message and that of Republicans in and outside Washington could not be more clear.  

 Pope Francis said

 “A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”

And added:

“When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us. 

“Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.”


In Ohio, the contrast in morality and leadership between the Pope and the Republican Party is particularly stark.  Ohio Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) refused to bring up a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill despite having the votes to pass it; while Attorney General Mike DeWine and GOP Presidential contender Governor John Kasich are supporting a partisan lawsuit against the proposed DAPA and expanded DACA policies.   

“The result of the actions of Speaker Boehner, Governor Kasich, and Attorney General DeWine has been inaction—inaction on immigration reform that so many Ohio families and children need.  The Pope is calling on them to recognize that there are people at the heart of our nation’s policies, and when it comes to immigration we can and must do better by our immigrant relatives, neighbors, and friends,” said Lynn Tramonte, director of Ohio’s Voice.  

In case Boehner, Kasich, and DeWine need more evidence that their policies are hurting American children, five year-old Sophie Cruz provides another moving example.  Sophie eagerly broke through a security barricade and handed Pope Francis a personal letter yesterday, asking him to fight for the nation’s undocumented immigrants like her parents.  According to one report, she also handed him a t-shirt that said, “Papa Rescate DAPA” — “Pope Rescue DAPA.”

After passing with broad bipartisan support in the Senate in 2013, a comprehensive immigration reform bill languished on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s (R-OH) desk in the previous Congress, despite 200 House cosponsors and enough bipartisan votes to pass the House.  In less than 15 minutes, Speaker Boehner could have replaced the President’s executive action with a lasting legislative overhaul that would strengthen our borders, bolster our economy, and require undocumented immigrants to undergo a background check, pay taxes, learn English and then get in a line to have a chance to one day become citizens.  Yet, Speaker Boehner refused to bring it up for even a vote, deferring instead to the Steve King wing of his Republican conference. 

Earlier this summer, Ohio immigrants and their U.S. Citizen children, lawyers, and allies traveled to Columbus to meet directly with their DeWine and Governor Kasich in separate meetings.  There, they urged both leaders to reconsider their support for the lawsuit given the real harm it is exacting on Ohioans.  

Maria Esmeralda Cornejo, a would-be DAPA beneficiary, had a direct message for the Pope this morning: “Good morning dear Pope Francis.  My name is Maria Esmeralda Cornejo, I am Mexican and the mother of three children.  I want to ask you to intercede with the Congress and our state leaders for those of us who do not have documents so that we can be here legally. Please you who are the Pope of the poor and downtrodden, help us remain with our families.  God bless you.”

Maria, a DAPA-eligible mother from Solon Ohio who traveled all the way to Iowa to confront Governor Kasich over his opposition to DAPA and DACA, said this: “Pope Francis is bringing a message of love to this country of immigrants.  I would like to call on our Ohio representatives to take his example and act like leaders by supporting immigration reform.  Speaker Boehner, Governor Kasich, and Attorney General DeWine should strive to be agents of positive changes in the country and in the world.” 

Said Rev. Edward Kwakye, an Ohioan and leader of a Ghanaian church: “America is a country founded on the principle of love and compassion for one another. The immigration reform is not about Republican or Democrats but about how good people who have lived in this country over decades can get papers and take good care of their children and other family members. I suggest that both Republicans and Democrats should have mercy on these immigrants and give them permit to stay in this country legally.”

Added Mark Nemecek of Shaker Heights, OH: “The need for immigration reform is imperative as many honest, hardworking  families that are working, contributing to society and paying taxes are being split under the current system. The public only learns about  negative incidents that paint a wrong picture.  Maybe the Pope can wake up the Republicans.”


Ohio’s Voice is a project of America’s Voice