Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Episcopal Letter on Immigration Reform

This message comes from Bishop CarcaƱo in the the Cal-Pac Conference. 

Last week, Bishop CarcaƱo represented the United Methodist Church at President Obama’s address on immigration reform in Las Vegas, NV. Afterward, she sent the following letter to the Council of Bishops; today she shares it in its entirety with the leaders of this Annual Conference, with the same expectation and encouragement that we give active witness to this issue of justice and compassion. Note especially the link at the close to further resources on the Episcopal Office webpage.  

(January 30, 2013)
Dear Colleagues,

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be among those who personally heard President Barack Obama outline his plan for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the U.S. When the White House called to invite me to join President Obama in Las Vegas, Nevada for this historic moment I was told that the invitation came as an acknowledgement from the White House of the good work The United Methodist Church has done in the area of immigration. I was privileged to represent the hard work that so many of you and other United Methodists have been engaged in.

This is the moment we have been working so very hard for. President Obama was clear in his commitment to reforming our broken immigration policies. I also sense a shift in the attitude of the country toward the issue of immigration. We have before us a great opportunity to live out our commitment to sojourn with our immigrant brothers and sisters until justice comes for them and for us.

President Obama called for immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now living and laboring in the U.S. He affirmed the moral need to work for the reunification of families who have been separated by migration, recognized the importance of DREAMERS for the future of the U.S., and reminded us that we are a country of immigrants. He called us to remember that immigrants are not “them” but “us”. He vowed to work hard to bring our U.S. immigration policies into the 21st Century affirming that immigrants are part of the solution to our economic struggles. I heard him say that we need common sense comprehensive immigration reform for the common good.

Yesterday was a hopeful day, but there is yet much more work to be done. I was concerned when President Obama mentioned strengthening border security, employment verification, and undocumented immigrants going to the back of the line in order to begin their pathway to citizenship. The U.S. has already spent $10 billion dollars in border security. How much higher must the border wall be before border security is considered adequate? The government’s employment verification efforts thus far have proven to be detrimental to employers as well as employees including documented workers. And, we all know there is no immigration line to go to the back of, only a mass of people and a backlog that will take a lifetime to process unless immigration processes are reformed. In the meantime our immigrant brothers and sisters continue to live in fear, suffering injustice, discrimination, and in many cases the violation of their human rights. We United Methodists can help make a difference.

Here are some things we can do now as [leaders in] the church,
  • Write op-eds for our local newspapers standing with President Obama in his call for comprehensive immigration reform;
  • Contact your Congressional leaders and let them know that United Methodists stand for comprehensive immigration reform;
  • Blog about our commitment to justice for our immigrant brothers and sisters;
  • Sign up on the Interfaith Immigration Coalition call to the 113th U.S. Congress to work for comprehensive immigration reform. I have attached it for your consideration. All you have to do to sign up is send your name to Bill Mefford at bmefford@umc-gbcs.org. As United Methodists we are members of the IIC and helped shape this statement;
  • Observe Family Unity Prayer Vigils in your area in the month of February . Invite your local churches, UMW, UMM, young people, campus ministries, conference and district offices, your cabinets, ecumenical partners and others to join you. In doing so you and your area will be joining a nation-wide interfaith prayer effort in the U.S. There is power in prayer!
One of the most important aspects of the just and humane immigration reform we are advocating for is the reunification of families separated by migration.

We ask you to focus on three areas of concern:
  1. Protection for immigrants,
  2. Empowerment of people of faith to speak out more boldly for immigrants, and
  3. Moral courage for Members of Congress to exercise leadership in enacting humane immigration reform.

Hosting prayer vigils will give us an opportunity to reflect on the deep scriptural and spiritual roots of our work to welcome and support immigrants in the United States, highlight the moral aspects of the immigration issue and help us remember the real-life consequences of our failed policies on immigrant families. It will show our representatives in Congress that just and humane immigration reform is a top priority for United Methodists, and demonstrate a growing movement in support of immigration reform.
  • As these prayer vigils are held in your area please have someone on you staff let Bill Mefford at GBCS know when and where they are held. Pictures of the prayer vigils would also be helpful. As we work with Congressional leaders it is so very important to make them aware of the fact that United Methodists are concerned, committed, and are praying. Numbers matter to elected officials!
  • In April, encourage Neighbor to Neighbor Meetings in your area. Neighbor to Neighbor meetings involve congregational leaders meeting with Members of Congress to share with them the need to support legislation that protects and preserves the dignity and rights of our immigrant neighbors from throughout the world. Neighbor to Neighbor meetings help us establish close relationships with our members of Congress, a crucial aspect of working for the enactment of just and humane immigration reform.

If you need any resources or assistance as you plan your Family Unity Prayer Vigils or Neighbor to Neighbor meetings, please contact Bill Mefford at the General Board of Church and Society. You might also want to consider using the wonderful video, Gospel Without Borders, that Bishop Charles Crutchfield graciously provided all of us with when he was still serving in Arkansas. Excellent resources provided to us by our GBCS called “How to Organize for Just and Humane Immigration Reform” can be located here: http://www.cal-pac.org/pages/detail/2016 .

I stand ready to support you in any way I can. Above all, may God be our help!
Your Sister in Christ,

Bishop Minerva

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