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Mary’s Song: My Song

By L. Dorothy Edmond

United Methodist Women and United Methodist Women's Division staff joined tens of thousands in New York City and Washington on April 10 to voice concerns over the potential criminalization of undocumented immigrants and to call for comprehensive immigration reform, including paths to legalization and citizenship.

More than 50 United Methodist Women members of New York and Women's Division staff in New York and Washington gathered with hundreds of thousands in more than 70 cities acrossÊthe United States in advocating for the rights of an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.

Jae Won Kim, New York's United Methodist Women education and interpretation officer, came to the United States from Korea 36 years ago, but had no problems getting citizenship because of her profession as a physician. Kim said it's disturbing for her to watch immigrants struggling for decades to gain citizenship.

"People come here to come to have a better life and for generations immigrants have given a new energy to this country," Kim said. "Immigrants labor for the country, they work hard, they sacrifice, and we need to support them. Different cultures bring an abundance to life. "

In New York City, recent immigrants make up 40 percent of the population. The rally reflected this broad diversity as Latinos, Asian Americans, Africans, South Asians, Eastern Europeans and recent Irish immigrants -- as well as African Americans and Europeans whose families have been in the U.S. for centuries - gathered with signs to support the issue.

Signs of rally participants contained statements like: "No human being is illegal," "Jesus was an immigrant," and "Today we march, tomorrow we vote".

Sung-ok Lee, Women's Division executive for community organizing, said United Methodist Women attended the rally to add their voices to the thousands seeking human rights for immigrants.

"As an organization concerned about women, youth and children, we know that current immigration policy hurts families and undermines rights, and that criminalization of immigrants is not a solution," said Lee.

Elmira Nazombe, the Division's executive for racial justice, explained that the issue of immigrant rights has biblical roots.

"Immigrant rights are a racial justice issue. The Bible calls for love of 'neighbor,' wherever that neighbor comes from, and we are called to respond," Nazombe stated.

Bishop Jeremiah Park, Episcopal leader of The United Methodist Church's New York Annual Conference, joined elected officials, union leaders and immigrant workers, in addressing the rally.

Calling for a compassionate and just immigration policy, Bishop Park reminded demonstrators of the call in Exodus to welcome the alien. The bishop also quoted Emma Lazarus' poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor. Send them, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. . . "

In Washington, Bishop Minerva Carca–o of the Desert Southwest Conference represented the United Methodist Council of Bishops. Also participating in the 80,000-strong Washington rally was Susie Johnson, Women's Division executive for public policy. Carrying a sign that said "We are America", Johnson underscored that "welcoming the sojourner and freedom of speech" are American traditions.

National rallies are paralleling congressional debate onimmigration legislation. In December 2005, the House passed a bill, HR 4437, which would criminalize undocumented immigrants and those who assist them. The proposed law would extend the wall on the US-Mexico border, involve local police in immigration control, and increase resources for the border patrol.

The Senate will debate comprehensive immigration reform, including the potential for a path to legalization for an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants. As legislators suspended debate for a congressional recess on Apr. 7, pending legislation included what Carol Barton, Women's Division executive for racial justice, called "both positive aspects and elements that could set back immigrant rights. "

"This is about the soul of our nation. If we are really about 'liberty and justice for all,' we hope many United Methodist Women and people across the nation will join immigrants in this new civil rights struggle that affects all of us," said Barton.

Date posted: Mar 25, 2006

Last Updated: 02/04/2013

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