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Faith groups call on Hagedorn to help refugees

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The Rev. Charlie Leonard, a senior pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester, was among 15 faith leaders and immigrant advocates who showed up at U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s Rochester office Friday morning to protest the treatment of migrant families and children at the Southern Border. Hagedorn was not present, but two aides took notes. "In my mind, it’s a humanitarian crisis. We are breaking federal and international law with the way we’re treating these people," Leonard said.

A group of leaders from various faith communities showed up at Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s Rochester office on Friday to discuss the crisis at the southern border and to call on the congressman to do what he can to "end the inhumane treatment of immigrants and refugees."

Several said that news reports coming from the border — of families being separated, children taking care of babies, children sleeping on floors — were offensive to their religious traditions and values.

"(We believe) above all else to love our God by loving our neighbors and not just the neighbors in my little neighborhood but our neighboring nations as well," said the Rev. Karen Larson, a pastor at Zwingli United Church of Christ in West Concord.

The gathering at Hagedorn’s office was organized by ISAIAH, a statewide, faith-based group that criticized the first-term Republican congressman in a press release for aligning himself with what they called President Trump’s "hard-hearted immigration positions that betray the values of constituents" in his district.

Hagedorn was not present when the group showed up, but they were greeted by two of his aides, Ryan Altman and Aaron Eberhart, who escorted the group to a small conference room. They took notes as the faith representatives spoke.

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In a statement, a Hagedorn spokeswoman said that the congressman is always willing to listen to constituents visiting his office.

Becky Rogness, Hagedorn’s spokeswoman, said that Hagedorn voted 18 times for humanitarian funding to be provided to overwhelmed agencies, but 18 times Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked those attempts. That $4.6 billion bill passed the House on Thursday.

"Of course, people should be treated with dignity and respect," Rogness said. "Rep. Hagedorn is a strong supporter of human rights from womb to tomb. Federal funding for humanitarian aid could already be at the border if Speaker Pelosi hadn’t played politics over the issue for so long."

Hagedorn was certain to be asked about the border crisis during a town hall meeting Friday night at Rochester Community and Technical College. The meeting occurred after the Post Bulletin went to press.

The Rev. Charlie Leonard, a senior pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester, said the way the U.S. is handling the situation at the southern border is "at complete odds" with "so many things that we pray for on a weekly basis."

"I will say that if the evangelical Christian community in this country wants to claim that this is a Christian country, they will need to step up with love as opposed to fear," Leonard said. "(They will need to recall) that the one we worship was a refugee infant within weeks of his brith. That is the core of our faith."

The gathering at Hagedorn’s office came a day after the House passed the $4.6 billion Senate bill to send emergency funding to the border. The bill will provide billions of dollars to be used to care for children in federal custody and does not include any funding for a border wall.

But the vote provoked a split within the House Democratic caucus between progressives and moderates. Progressives supported a House measure that would have done more to protect migrant children in government custody. But that bill faced bleak prospects in the GOP-controlled Senate and was criticized by President Trump.

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The Senate measure passed by the House now heads to the White House for Trump’s signature.

The crisis at the border took on a more human dimension this week when a migrant father and his 23-month-old daughter drowned on the banks of the Rio Grande, a photograph of which was widely circulated.

Rosine Tenenbaum, a 76-year-old Winona woman, was born in France during the Nazi occupation. Many members of her Jewish family, including several children, were killed during the Holocaust. When she saw on television how migrant children at the border were being treated, it reminded her of "what was done in Europe by the Nazis."

"It is a slippery slope. Hitler didn’t start immediately with his program," Tenebaum said. "But as you dehumanize some people, as you say, it is a slippery slope."

Related Topics: JIM HAGEDORN
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