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Welcoming the Stranger

This web page will feature information related to the new residents of our state, our immigrants and refugees.  At this time, it will feature commentary on current events, and suggestions for “welcoming the stranger” in your community.  This section will tell the   stories of our Iowa churches that have tried various approaches to drawing immigrants/refugees into the life of the church.

Your Conference Advocate for immigrants and refugees: 

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program to be revised

Dec. 11, 2017

A program was initiated in 1998 to protect people who couldn’t return to their home country because of natural disasters, civil unrest, or health crises.  Hondurans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Salvadoreans were the first to receive this temporary permission to live and work in the U.S.  Their protection status has been extended and many of them are still here.  Many have children who are US citizens, or have married US citizens. 

At the end of October, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued that these people no longer qualify for this protected status.  However, frequently immigrants must return to difficult conditions such as inadequate employment opportunities, very high crime, poverty, and corruption rates.  It is thought that Tillerson’s response is politically fueled and is part of Trump’s hard-line approach toward immigration.

As of October, citizens of several other countries qualify for TPS, including Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.  Temporary U.S. residents of all of these countries are vulnerable to deportation under the new regulations.  Haitians and Nicaraguans have 14 to 18 months to establish that they are enrolled in the naturalization process that leads to citizenship. The status of Hondurans and Salvadoreans is still being considered. 

Material from the Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 11, 2017

Migration from Mexico

Over the past 15 years the net migration from Mexico to the US has been falling. Slower population growth, better schools, and the improving economy have combined to  encourage Mexicans to stay at home. Now immigrants more often come from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Some subgroups such as women and children traveling alone, and LGBTQ persons are fleeing persecution at home. Mexico has stepped up its border patrol, especially at their southern border. As the journey becomes riskier more migrants are retreating into the shadows in an effort to avoid officials. Fewer people are taking the trains. Since the trains are particularly dangerous, this led to fewer serious injuries and deaths. Mexico has established a network of shelters that feed and house migrants, and help connect them to medical and legal support. 

El Salvador and Honduras have two of the highest murder rates in the world causing people to leave, going to other Central American countries, Belize and Costa Rice. Many are fleeing a prolonged drought. Fleeing dangers is a serious world problem, especially in the Middle East and Africa. As long as serious inequalities exist, people will yearn for a better place.

The US government contracted with five different companies to build a wall along the border demonstrating how effective each one was. Within a short time all five had been scaled. 

Worship together

Perry First has a bilingual worship service (in this case Spanish and English).  The hope when the program was initiated, was to eventually unite the two groups for worship and to have the church administration shared by both groups.  According to Rev. Paul Burrow (bilingual pastor), “At present we do not have enough members in the Hispanic congregation that can also manage English to do more than have a Hispanic representative on the Staff Parish Relations Committee.  The Spanish-speakers are full members of the church and in the past, they have served on various committees and taken responsibility for the administration of the church.”  (

Trinity Las Americas UMC is the result of the merger on December 11, 2016 of Trinity UMC, a historic congregation founded in the 1880s, and Las Americas Comunidad de Fe, a Latino faith community begun around 1996. The two congregations have worshiped together in a bilingual service since 2007. Through the years various configurations of committees and councils were experimented with although financially and within the denomination they were separate entities until the merger. An English Language Learners program was begun in 2002 and continues today. Through the years we have had many programs for each group - English speakers and Spanish speakers, but also many bilingual programs and activities.  (

North Liberty UMC also offers a bilingual worship service.  (