Responsively Yours: Immigration: Our Role
- Immigration: Our Role: Audio version (MP3, 3.9MB)
- Cover of Response, July/August 2008 (PDF, 83k)
- Content of Response, July/August 2008 (PDF, 57K)
- Harriett Jane Olson is deputy general secretary for the Women's Division.
The migration of the world’s peoples has continued for all of our written history and throughout the archeological record we know. Drought, famine, war, flood, opportunity, marriage and climate change all occasioned the movement of people across the face of the earth, often creating conflicts with governments and resident populations. Settlement, resettlement and changing community demographics have been tools of empire as well as a threat to the governing powers for a long time.
These stories are laced through the biblical text. From the journeys of Sarah and Abraham to the travels of Ruth and Naomi to the flight of Jesus’ family to Egypt, the biblical story is full of crossing boundaries, cultures and language groups.
In the Pentateuch, the Hebrew people are called to provide for the widow, the orphan and the stranger who dwelt among them. In the diatribes of the prophets, we see the people of God found wanting because such justice was not served. The widow, the orphan, the stranger - the most vulnerable in the society - were being oppressed. Recognizing that the United States is not a theocracy and that the church is not the political authority, what is our call today as we seek to live as the beloved community? How might we carry the love of Jesus into the context of immigration quotas, border-wall construction, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids?
Language barriers and resource limitations make it very difficult for some immigrants to move through the complicated processes that affect their status. Prevailing ethnicity and language-based assumptions cause many immigrants to face suspicion and harassment even when all their documentation is in order. Some immigrants, young adults who have lived in the United States all their lives, are finding their dreams shattered when the documentation required for college admission, loans or scholarships is not available. Some U.S. citizens choose to remain here when their family is divided by rules and deportation.
What is the role of United Methodist Women in these situations? We play different roles. In West Virginia, some United Methodist Women members host baby showers for infants whose fathers have been deported in ICE raids. In Nebraska, some United Methodist Women units support a local church-based clinic serving a low-income community that includes many immigrants. Nationally, United Methodist Women supports the work of Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist Committee on Relief effort providing legal assistance to immigrants, as well as the work of the many national mission institutions serving immigrant and other low-income communities.
The list goes on. United Methodist Women’s work with immigrants includes providing English-As-A-Second-Language training, advocating for immigrant children to receive public education and other efforts to greet the stranger among us as we’d greet Christ.
What might your United Methodist Women unit do? Review the United Methodist Church’s General Conference resolutions addressing the treatment of migrants worldwide, including here in the United States. Take steps to implement the resolutions’ call to action. Are there immigrant detention centers in your area? Visit them. Publicize the conditions you observe. Provide material support for families.
How can we extend supportive community to immigrants - especially women, children and youth - who are so vulnerable to raids and isolation? United Methodist Women units and members mentioned in this issue of Response and many others have shown what we can do. Let’s tell the story and be part of making a difference in the world because Christ first loved us.
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary
Date posted : Sep. 16, 2008