Concern for Immigrants Spans 100 Years and More
When United Methodist Women members marched out of the America's Center in St. Louis in a May 1 vigil for immigrants rights, they locked historic step with foremothers in a 100-year trail of "welcoming the stranger" in the nation.
As early as 1890, United Methodist Women foremothers were meeting boats docked in New York City's harbor to befriend young women and get them to a safe house – The Immigrant Girls Home, now Alma Mathews House – before the city's infamous gangs of the day could scam them or coheres them into prostitution. By 1896 United Methodist Women foremothers in California were visiting new immigrants in detention pens and addressing the needs of Chinese women immigrants.
In decades following, United Methodist Women foremothers established neighborhood houses and community centers across the country to serve immigrants and other communities in need. These United Methodist Women mission institutions continue to provide child care, English-as-a-Second-Language classes, job training and other resources to help newcomers and other struggling families get on their feet.
In 2007 United Methodist Women launched an initiative for immigrant rights as part of its ongoing commitment to racial justice, and civil and human rights. United Methodist Women joined with partners to promote a respectful national dialog on immigration, challenge hateful language and actions often used in debates on the issue and work for just immigration policies.
United Methodist Women members have stood vigil at immigrant detention centers in New York, Texas and other parts of the country; hosted educational forums to bridge communities by helping people examine the causes, realities and responses to migration; and marched for immigrant human rights and to promote just U.S. immigration policies.
*Yvette Moore is staff writer for Women's Division and editor of United Methodist Women News.