Faith leaders to risk arrest at White House on President"s Day

February 14, 2014

United Methodist bishops among those issuing call to reverse
immigration policies before reaching 2 million deportations.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two bishops are among several United Methodists, including top executives of United Methodist Women, who will risk arrest at a pray-in on President’s Day, Feb. 17, in front of the White House. The United Methodists are among faith leaders, undocumented immigrants and labor leaders who will gather in Lafayette Park at 1 p.m. to pray as President Obama nears a record-breaking two millionth deportation, expected to occur in early April.

 Methodist Bishops Minerva Carcaño and Julius Trimble, who co-chair the denomination’s Interagency Immigration Task Force, will be joined in the civil disobedience by Bill Mefford, director of Civil & Human Rights at the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS); and United Methodist Women General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson, Assistant General Secretary for Christian Social Action Sung-ok Lee; and Executive for Community Action Carol Barton.

“We are willing to be arrested in front of the White House to tell the president that compassion on immigration starts with the stroke of his pen,” said Bishop Carcaño on her decision to be arrested. “We know that the consequences will be minor for us compared to the grave reality undocumented people live with on a constant basis.

“Far too many families are being ripped apart by the injustice of our broken immigration system; a system that President Obama can begin to repair by turning his own policies around before he reaches the milestone of two million deportations. We’ll be praying that he does so.”

Civil disobedience

Other United Methodists who have indicated a willingness to participate in the civil disobedience are Sol Cotto, director of GBCS’s Immigrant Welcoming Congregations; Melissa Bowe, program manager for Justice for our Neighbors; the Rev. Jacob Dhamaraj, pastor at Shrub Oak (N.Y.) United Methodist Church; the Rev. David Farley, pastor of Echo Park United Methodist Church, Los Angeles; and Sophia Agtarap of United Methodist Communications, Nashville.

Also volunteering to be arrested are Sandy Sorenson, director of United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries office in Washington, D.C., and Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network.

Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and members of its Not1More Deportation campaign will take part.

Consider place in history

The gathering is to persuade President Obama to consider his place in history and to reverse course on his deportation quota programs. The protesters contend the president through his executive authority can expand the deferred action for childhood arrivals program and suspend deportations. He has chosen not to do so thus far.

Recent polls show that the majority of Americans agree that the government's main focus should be on including the undocumented rather than on deporting them, according to organizers of the demonstration.

The religious leaders joined by people facing threat of deportation hope to demonstrate the urgency for action and to urge President Obama to lead by example in ending the needless suffering caused by Arizona-style enforcement policies.

Wayne Rhodes
Director of Communications
General Board of Church & Society
The United Methodist Church
(202) 488-5630 /