How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Muslim, Jewish leaders join Archbishop on immigration reform

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For Catholic Angelenos, the setting for the prayer vigil was a familiar one — the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

But the man speaking from the pulpit was a new face. 

"When people ask me as a Jew, why I care about comprehensive immigration reform, I answer because it is in our Jewish DNA," said Rabbi Mark Diamond.

Diamond, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, was invited by Archbishop Jose Gomez to help lead a Friday morning interfaith prayer vigil for immigration reform, along with Christian and Muslim leaders.

Diamond noted that Passover, which starts this month, marked the Jews' exodus from Egypt, and served as a reminder that they have lived through the experience of being unwelcome in new lands.

"We must never, ever do that to others," Diamond said.

The Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have been particularly outspoken leaders in the fight for immigration reform. But other faith leaders are also taking a stand, and putting pressure on Washington to pass legislation.

"We wish to let the nation know that it is a myth to frame the immigration issue only for the Catholic community," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.

Syed said there is widespread support for reform among Muslims.

"There are a lot of Muslim immigrants, Arab immigrants, South Asian immigrants," Syed said. "There are “undocumented” people in all faith communities, across the spectrum."

Syed said more interfaith vigils will take place as the mid-term elections approach – a way to keep the pressure on politicians. Expect mosques, he said, to host some of these events.

Other speaking at the vigil included Armenian Church Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Bishop Guy Erwin of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Episcopalian Bishop J. Jon Bruno, president of the L.A. Council of Religious Leaders and Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano.

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