Personal Statement from Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO

April 19, 2013

As Lutherans and Americans, we mourn the victims of the Boston bombings and share the sorrow of their families. My personal sadness at these events could not be greater, since I grew up in Massachusetts and Boston has been my hometown. I have also spent my professional life committed to immigrants and refugees. My commitment – as a Bostonian and as an advocate for immigrants’ rights – is no less firm today than it was this past Monday, before hearing from family and friends as the events unfolded in Boston. I am mindful that nothing can undo the harm inflicted on the victims and our nation by the shameful act of violence on Monday, nor should we allow isolated acts of violence to do further harm to innocent aspiring Americans by jumping to conclusions and making snap judgments.

We remain mindful that the facts on the ground in Boston are very fluid. It is premature to jump to final conclusions about the events and about the attackers. As people of faith, we are called to love and serve our neighbors and must avoid the temptation to exploit this tragedy for any sort of political gain. We also stand with other faith leaders nationwide in rejecting any efforts to promote fear and hate, or generalize about entire groups of people based on the behavior of a few individuals. Though those suspected of being involved appear to have been in the United States with legal status and were foreign-born, it would be a grave oversight to forget that America has also witnessed many acts of violence by native-born citizens.

I am as proud today of Boston and America’s immigrant heritage as I was before Monday’s bombings. Sadly, there will always be individuals who seek to harm innocent people. What is crucial is that every system we put in place, every law, do the greatest good for the greatest number while eliminating the greatest possibility of harm. We must not fall into the trap of reacting to the cruel acts in Boston by tampering with America’s immigration system, or nascent reforms, in a way that denies Americans – native-born, naturalized, and aspiring – the benefits of economic prosperity, stable communities, and unified families. Our nation is constantly being renewed and made stronger by immigrants across the span of time – from the Pilgrims to Boston’s Irish to the newest Americans arriving this very day.

So as we stand with the victims and their families, with sadness and determination to see justice, our prayers also accompany them and all of the people of Boston.  We must stand firm in separating in our hearts and minds the acts of a few individuals from the behavior of literally millions of people who are our neighbors — immigrants and their families. The stories of our own grandparents and great-parents connect us to those we spend time with every day  who have arrived as immigrants, driven by the same things that drive most Americans: the desire for a better life for themselves and their families.