By Bob Allen
As House Republicans gather Wednesday in private to discuss their next steps on the comprehensive Senate immigration bill, the top leader of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion at an immigration summit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.
“Our challenge is to update and align our laws to protect our country, to enable potential and talent, and to unite families,” CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said in advance of a half-day event titled What Immigrants Contribute: A Special Event on Immigration, Texas and Economic Growth July 10.
“It is time to fix the broken immigration system and to restore the rule of law,” Paynter said. “We can reorder the justice system toward fairness, which means penalties for those who have entered illegally and lawful status for expanded guest worker programs.”
Paynter is scheduled to participate in the last of three panel discussions, focusing on how immigrants serve America.
“Immigrants in faith communities have been active in every aspect of congregational life and mission outreach,” Paynter said. “Yesterday’s immigrants are today’s leading pastors, theologians and compassionate missionaries. Immigrants are teaching and learning English and citizenship in classes at more than 500 churches across Texas. They are serving as chaplains in the armed forces, in hospitals and hospice.”
The event will also feature a naturalization ceremony where several will become U.S. citizens.
Paynter, who took office in March, worked previously as director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Christian Life Commission. At her first CBF General Assembly in her new role June 26-28 in Greensboro, N.C., Paynter said she intends to “advance the public identity and the profile of the Fellowship” through networking with faith groups she previously worked with and others.
“Advocacy is something that we are learning to embrace,” Paynter said, “to use our voice on behalf of the bereft and dying.”