As immigration issues heat-up in United States politics, what do we in The United Methodist Church have to say to bring our faith; sense of social holiness; and, call to welcome the sojourner and neighbor in our midst to the conversations? Actually, we have a lot to say and are saying it well!
Within the last two days we have seen two major breakthroughs in what has often been an exercise in overly politicized futility to try to get the US federal government to work on comprehensive immigration reform. The first came on Monday with the announcement of a “bipartisan agreement” on a framework for immigration reform. Politico has a good article on this proposal. Some of our Bishops and our General Board of Church and Society responded quickly and accurately; praising the 8 bipartisan Senators for moving things forward, while challenging them “to work towards enactment of just reform as soon as possible”:
“These principles offer necessary steps towards immigration policy solutions that are just and humane. A pathway to full citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and policies that will allow the reunification of immigrant families are crucial aspects of any legislation that strives to be effective and humane,” said Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Bishop of the Los Angeles Area. The steps that are being recommended help us move toward immigration reform, but there is much more work to be done. One specific area of concern is making a pathway to full citizenship contingent on even stronger and potentially harsher border enforcement. We will continue to monitor the plan for implementing these principles for immigration reform.”
The second breakthrough came with President Obama’s announcement on Tuesday in Las Vegas. “President Obama's proposal for reform has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers” (from White House website).
Again, some of our Bishops and the General Board of Church and Society responded quickly:
“Jim Winkler, chief executive of GBCS, said following the president’s announcement: ‘We have spent billions on border security. We have deported more than a million people in the past several years, including 100,000 parents of the US citizen children. What more needs to be done?’ Winkler pointed out that Dept. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has testified that the border is secure. ‘it is long past time to get serious about creating a pathway to citizenship free of any further enforcement measures and to reunify families,’ he declared. ‘that is the kind of reform that we need and that will move us forward as a nation.’ United Methodists are organized like never before, according to Winkler, He said they stand ready to advocate for just, humane reform” .(from a United Methodist).
It’s also important to mention that President Obama’s proposal includes provisions that would support the unity of all families. In a section entitled "Keeping Families Together," the document "treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner" (from Believe Out Load website).
So the word is, we United Methodists are watching and ready to engage and help! We want to be involved in the conversations about potential proposals, but realize that our overriding goal is to make sure that social holiness is served. We aren’t interested in measures that are punitive and/or so restrictive that they prolong debate and/or keep our undocumented neighbors hiding from fear. We want policies that are just; compassionate; allow for family unity; offer a path for citizenship (if desired); and, protect the rights and dignity of guest workers in our midst. The democratic process has begun (I hope) and the market place of ideas is flowing… I’m excited that we at the Methodist Federation for Social Action are involved and stand ready to be further involved.
To find out more about what United Methodists have said about immigration and related issues, please see the following statements in our Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions:
In The United Methodist Book of Discipline (2012) please see paragraphs 162 (especially 162.H on “Rights of Immigrants) and 163 (especially 163.F on “Foreign Workers”).
In The United Methodist Book of Resolutions (2012) please see the following (please note: all links are to 2008 edition of these statements & all quotes are from the 2012 edition)…
Resolution 3164: “DREAM Act” (new in 2012) ~ The UMC calling on the US Congress to adopt the DREAM Act.
Resolution 3281: “Welcoming the Migrant to the US” ~ Our most comprehensive and theological statement about US immigration issues.
Resolution 3282: “Sons and Daughters of Our Fathers” ~ Addresses the need to change the “Immigration and Nationality Act” to give a visa to alien children fathered by US citizens after 1950 in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea or Thailand.
Resolution 3283: “US Immigration and Family Unity” ~ The UMC supports “just and fair immigration policies that benefit and allow the family to preserve and maintain its unity.”
Resolution 3284: “Faithfulness in Response to Critical Needs” (new in 2012) ~ Calls for support of the Sanctuary Movement in having the UMC call on the US federal government to “ensure the protection of the freedom of religion in the United States by stopping the promulgation of laws that penalize church members for helping immigrants in need…”
Resolution 3395: “Ministries of Rural Chaplains” ~ Recognizes and endorses the unique ministry of General Board of Global Ministries related rural chaplains and their unique “experiential exposures related to issues such as immigration, migrant workers, farm works, rural businesses and communities;”
Resolution 4134: “Rights of Farm Workers in the US” ~ Recognizes the important role of farm workers in the US economy and how “most farm workers are immigrants who have come to the United States to seek a better life for their families.” It also recognizes that “these workers face discrimination and exploitation based on ethnicity, socioeconomic and immigration status.” And it outlines 9 steps that the UMC will take to face these issues and help bring about a just and compassionate resolution to these issues.
Resolution 5081: “Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform” ~ Outlines why UMC believes immigration reform is so desperately needed and how it might proceed.
Resolution 6028: “Global Migration and the Quest for Justice” ~ The UMC’s most comprehensive statement on global migration and the many issues that faced by immigrants and refugees.
Resolution 6073: “Border Ministry in the Western Jurisdiction” (new in 2012) ~ A call for the Interagency Task Force to address “immigration issues generally, mobilize and respond to the impacts of deportation outside of the United States and specifically in Mexico including but not limited to” several different work areas that address the intersectionality of issues facing immigrants.
Rev. Steve Clunn serves as the Coalition Coordinator for the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Clergy in the Upper New York Annual Conference, Steve's work at MFSA focuses on coordinating United Methodist caucus groups in their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the life of the Church.