For the past two four-year periods or quadrennia, The United Methodist Church has declared its support for a comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration law, and it has called all its agencies, annual conferences, and local churches to become actively involved in this ministry. As affirmed by General Conference in 2008, we believe that, “there is theologically and historically an implied nature of mutuality in migration. Both the migrant and the native are meant to benefit from migration. Welcoming the migrant is not only an act of mission, it is an opportunity to receive God’s grace.” In Scripture we read: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
What statement has the Church made about Immigration?
The 2008 General Conference approved a resolution entitled “A Call for a Comprehensive Immigration Reform”:
Be it resolved that…the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church assert that immigrants are children of God made in God’s image, affirm the labor and struggle of the undocumented worker, andassert that immigrant children deserve to be educated and provided with basic social services….that the United Methodist Church stand against all forms of oppression and prejudices and will work through its general agencies, especially the General Commission on Religion and Race and the General Board of Church and Society, to resist racism, intolerance, and prejudice in the context of the immigration debate…that the General Conference urge all the local congregations to oppose unjust local and state ordinances that seek to deprive undocumented persons of basic social services including the access to adequate housing and protection under the law…that we urge the United States Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that makes family unity, students being able to get an education at an affordable rate, fair and just treatment of laborers, and a reasonable path towards citizenship a priority…and, finally, that the 2008 General Conference of The United Methodist Church request the Council of Bishops to urgently establish a Plan of Action of Advocacy and Welcoming the Sojourner to enable their annual conferences to immediately respond to the needs and challenges of the Hispanic/Latino immigrant population, and all immigrant populations in the community, by creating opportunities of service and equipping local churches to effectively respond in their ministry. (For a complete text go to: www.umc.org and search “A Call to Comprehensive Immigration Reform 2008)
What do The Social Principles say?
The 2009-2012 Discipline addresses in paragraph H) Rights for Immigrants: “We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and the struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all. “ (approved at General Conference 2008)
What is the Isaiah 58 Call to Prayer and Fasting?
Isaiah 58 is an initiative from the Interagency Task Force on Immigration and the Council of Bishops inviting all United Methodists for an intense time of Vigil and Fasting from June 6 to July 28, 2010 in response to the implementation of Arizona law SB 1070. The Council of Bishops have asserted: “this law will potentially result in racial profiling against Latinos and immigrants of color. Though we are called to love and serve all immigrants, regardless of their legal status, this law could possibly criminalize those who minister among immigrant communities. This legislation will force police officers to abandon their responsibilities to protect and serve communities and force them to become federal immigration enforcement agents. This legislation has created a climate of fear and terror and has done nothing to repair the broken immigration system. It is clear that the Arizona law, SB 1070, falls short of the principles called for by the 2008 General Conference and therefore this legislation, and all other bills like it should be opposed by United Methodists.” During these weeks, vigil participation will roll from one region to another. The North Carolina Conference prayer and action will take place on week 7, July 18-24.
What do we mean when we say Comprehensive Immigration Reform? Does that mean Amnesty?
The United Methodist Church advocates for comprehensive immigration reform that consists of:
- An opportunity for legal status for all undocumented migrants. Any pathway created for undocumented migrants should have minimal obstacles and those requirements should not be designed to preclude migrants from eligibility for legalization,
- Clearing the backlogs and reunifying families separated by migration or detainment,
- An increase in the number of visas for short-term workers to come into the United States to work in a safe, legal, and orderly way. Opportunities for legalization should be available for those who wish to remain permanently,
- The protections of all workers who come to stay for a certain period of time as well as for those who stay permanently. The right to bargain for higher wages, to protest against poor working conditions, and to preserve their human rights should be maintained by all workers, documented and undocumented alike.