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WASHINGTON, D.C. — In less than a week, more than 1,300 United Methodist clergy have signed a letter to Congress that calls for “genuine solutions” for the U.S.’s broken immigration system. Among endorsers of the letter are 40 United Methodist bishops. Endorsers came from 49 states.
The letter, which was sent to members of the House of Representatives today emphasizes that many United Methodist churches minister with and among immigrant communities. “Thus, we witness firsthand every day the fear and uncertainty that so many immigrant families are forced to live under,” the letter states.
The measures put forth at this time, including the legislation that passed the Senate, have failed to provide real solutions, according to the letter. “These efforts fall short because they fail to see that immigration is innately a human-rights issue,” the letter stresses. “More than an issue of national security, immigration is about people … in search of basic human survival, of safety and freedom.”
Do what is right
Bishop Julius Trimble, co-chair of the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration said, “It is always the right time to do what is right and contributes to the common good for the human family."
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, who co-chairs the task force with Trimble, said the United Methodist leaders movement for just, humane immigration reform is deeply rooted in the belief that all immigrants are created in the image of God and therefore must be treated with dignity and respect. “No policy violates this biblical principle more than the administration's record number of deportations that have broken up families and spread terror among immigrant communities,” she said.
Carcaño said that in addition to the clergy call to congressional leaders for genuine reform, they are also calling on President Obama to stop all deportations until genuine reform is passed.
The letter puts forth five criteria of “genuine, solution-based reform.” These include:
- Full citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
- Reunification of families separated by migration and deportations.
- An end to all deportations until genuine, solution-based reform is passed.
- Preserving the basic civil and human rights of all migrants including worker protections and due process in the courts.
- Addressing the root causes of migration, such as repairing financial systems in sending countries that oppress vulnerable populations.
Nationwide call-in to Congress
In addition to the clergy letter, United Methodists across the country were encouraged to phone their members of Congress and ask them to pursue genuine immigration reform now.
“We should focus efforts to invest in environmentally sustainable economic development that preserves and defends the basic human rights of all people,” the letter declares. “Reform that fails to address the reasons why people are forced to migrate is not genuine reform.”
Many of the persons who signed the clergy letter to Congress included their own comments.
“No other contemporary political issue can do more to help more persons as easily and as quickly as passing a comprehensive immigration reform,” said Owen Ross of Dallas. “Moreover, no other contemporary political issue is more constantly and consistently addressed in Scripture than immigration.”
Ross said the message is clear that we are to love the foreigner as ourselves. “We have a moral mandate to stop ripping families apart and causing persons to live in fear by deporting immigrants with no criminal record,” he said, adding, “pass comprehensive immigration reform now!”
Feels the fear of families
Martha De La Rosa of Winchester, Va., commented that as a pastor working with immigrant communities, it is easy to feel the fear of the families. “Deportation, family separation is what each immigrant is confronting every single day,” she said. “This is why we urge Congress to pass a law that gives them respect, freedom, and the right to have a future.”
As a pastor who has served as a missionary in Latin America and who has worked closely with various immigrant communities and families for nearly 15 years, Neva Thorn Perdue of Phoenix, Ariz., said she strongly supports immigration reform that protects and assists those who are caught in the current immigration dilemma. “I believe a comprehensive reform will bring long-term economic health for our nation and provide humane and peaceful resolution that will bring stability to our hemisphere,” she said. “I continue to be in prayer for those charged with the responsibility for wrestling with these difficult policy decisions.”
The most concise comment may have come from David Tatgenhorst of Philadelphia, Pa. “It's time already,” he wrote. “Pass meaningful reform.”
The clergy letter stated that if we believe the United States is a place of freedom, equality and justice, “then it is our responsibility and privilege to make those ideals a reality for native born and immigrant alike.”
The United Methodist movement for justice for immigrants is strong, according to Bishop Carcaño and we will not stop until all of our immigrant sisters and brothers are treated as the beloved children of God that they are," said.
View the letter
The letter was coordinated by Bill Mefford, director of Civil & Human Rights at the General Board of Church & Society. The agency is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.
You can view the letter and its signers arranged by state at A Letter from Clergy to Congress Seeking ‘Genuine' Immigration Reform.