United Methodists Join in Call for Justice, Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Washington, DC, February 12, 2009--Faith communities in the United States are being called to pray and work for a just and comprehensive reform of what were described as broken immigration laws.
A campaign of "Prayer, Renewal and Action on Immigration" was announced on February 11 at a Washington press conference organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. The campaign is addressed to pending consideration by Congress of current immigration laws and the public debate around immigration issues.
Several speakers also pointed to recent incidents in which undocumented persons have been subjected to violence and inhumane treatment by law enforcement.
"There is a growing violence in this country against persons seeking refuge from economic and political pressures as well as from hunger and war in their countries," said United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño of Phoenix. "We stand here today to declare, 'No more.'" The bishop is chair of the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration reauthorized by the denomination's legislating General Conference last April 2008.
The interfaith immigration group is calling upon congregations and organizations to hold prayer vigils in the near future to alert the new administration of President Barack Obama that faith communities are committed to just and equitable immigration laws.
Attempts over the last two years to effect comprehensive legal reform has failed in Congress. Some factions argue that current laws are too lax regarding undocumented persons and others contend that the laws are too strict and lack provisions that would protect the unity of families and provide for workers needed by agriculture and other industries.
Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish leaders were joined at the press conference by several members of Congress. Staff of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society played key roles in organizing the event. The Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries has invited its local units to consider holding local prayer vigils.
"I have heard so many stories where parents are torn apart from their children, and family members with decades to reunite," said Congressman Mike Honda of California. "This broken immigration systems works for no one, and undermines our economy and fabric of our communities."
Bishop Carcaño illustrated her charge of violence against detainees. "Just last week 200 immigrant men in shackles and prison stripes were marched through the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, under armed guard to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence," she said, continuing:
Apparently these immigrants were being sent to await deportation in this newly created detention camp that brought them much human degradation and humiliation but brought much media attention to Sheriff Arpaio. Sheriff Arpaio claims to be an official participant in a federal policing program [287(g)]. What is clear is that his style of policing has created a climate of fear in our communities, unleashed a vicious wave of ethnic bashing, and shown a complete disregard for basic human rights. Arizona does not stand alone in this shameful scene, for what is happening in Arizona is happening all across this country.
The United Methodist General Conference, meeting last spring in Fort Worth, Texas, adapted several major resolutions on both global migration and immigration in the United States. All of the measures encouraged governments to enact and abide by humane policies regarding economic migrants as well as refugees from war and disaster.
The task force Bishop Carcaño leads has five episcopal members and representatives for virtually all United Methodist general agencies and ethnic/minority caucuses. The General Board of Church and Society, based in Washington, played a major role in organizing the press conference and in laying plans for the prayer vigils.
The full text of the bishop's comments at the press conference follows.
Comments of Bishop Minerva Carcaño at the press conference announcing the campaign on "Prayer, Renewal and Action Immigration," February 11, 2009, Washington, DC.
Last month on January 20th this country not only inaugurated a new administration, we celebrated how far we have come as a nation that has long stated that it values all persons, all races, and all cultures. That celebration, however, will be short-lived if we continue to allow the racist rhetoric and actions that are permeating this land on the issue of immigration.
Throughout this country on this day, hard-working immigrants seeking only to support themselves and their families are being treated in ways that not only violate their human and civil rights, but undermine the very values upon which this country was built. We gather today because we have witnessed a rise of xenophobic and racist reactions against immigrants in the United States.
There is a growing violence in this country against persons seeking relief from economic and political pressures as well as from hunger and war in their countries. We stand here today to declare, "No more."
Young people should not be suffering and dying in deserts and rivers or living in the dark shadows of an underclass because of their immigration status. And parents should not have to live their lives under the constant threat of at any moment being taken from their children because of ICE raids at their workplace. Families should not have to suffer the deep grief and anguish of being indefinitely separated because of a broken immigration policy. Men and women should not have to fear deportation because they expect to be paid fairly and treated justly for their hard labor. And no one, absolutely no one should be treated in the barbaric manner that immigrant men are being treated by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio in Maricopa County in my home state of Arizona.
Just last week 200 immigrant men in shackles and prison stripes were marched through the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, under armed guard to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence. Apparently these immigrants were being sent to await deportation in this newly created detention camp that brought them much human degradation and humiliation but brought much media attention to Sheriff Arpaio.
Sheriff Arpaio claims to be an official participant in a federal policing program [287(g)]. What is clear is that his style of policing has created a climate of fear in our communities, unleashed a vicious wave of ethnic bashing, and shown a complete disregard for basic human rights. Arizona does not stand alone in this shameful scene, for what is happening in Arizona is happening all across this country.
Throughout the history of this great nation we have been able to welcome immigrants with hospitality. Immigrants in turn have joined us in building a strong and prosperous nation. Now is not the time to turn away from the value of hospitality. It is the time to turn away from racist rhetoric and actions that serve only to undermine the higher values that I believe Americans aspire to live by. Immigrants are not the problem. They are part of the solution to our national struggles.
As people of faith, we cannot and will not stand by in silence while young people die, families are separated, individual freedoms are ignored, and the immigrant community in the United States is treated unjustly and inhumanely. No more! If we do not stand up and speak up now, the moral fiber of this country will be torn beyond repair.
We call upon the elected officials of this land to:
- Act decisively in favor of the human and civil rights of all persons, including the immigrants among us
- Oppose all forms of violence against immigrants
- Lead us toward comprehensive immigration reform.
Date posted: Feb 12, 2009