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United Methodist Church Supports Justice for Immigrants

General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church

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Women participants in the April 24 lunch-break rights. GC2008

United Methodist Women participants in the April 24 lunch-break rally for immigration rights during General Conference see the impact of the unjust immigration policies each day in their local communities.
Image by: Chris Heckert
Source: WD Press Releases
Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker  and other bishops and church leaders attend an immigrant rights rally. GC2008

Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker of the Florida Annual (regional) Conference addresses an immigrant rights rally on April 24 outside the Fort Worth (Texas) Convention Center, site of the 2008 General Conference of The United Methodist Church. Behind him are other bishops and church leaders.
Image by: Paul Jeffrey
Source: United Methodist News Service

by Andrew J. Schleicher*

Fort Worth, TX, May 1, 2008--The United Methodist Church has formally supported justice for migrants worldwide and reform of US immigration laws.

Delegates to the denomination's top legislative body, meeting in Fort Worth from April 23 to May 2, adopted two comprehensive resolutions covering both global migration and immigration issues in the United States.

The resolution on the global scene stresses both the economic needs that contribute to massive movements of people today and the difficulties encountered by migrants. It states:

While money and products easily flow across borders, the movement of people is increasingly restricted, leading to concentrations of the poor along borders and, often, to the building of literal and figurative walls of exclusion.

The US domestic resolution looks forward to significant reform of current immigration laws. It advocates "full protection of all workers, which includes the opportunity to gain legal status for all migrants." It also urges US lawmakers to ensure that immigrant laws do not "zip apart" families. It states:

To refuse to welcome migrants to this country and to stand by in silence while families are separated, individual freedoms are ignored, and the migrant community in the United States is demonized by members of Congress and the media, is complicity to sin.

The General Conference also added a new section on "Rights of Immigrants" to the denomination's Social Principles. It states in part, "We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination." The global economic system has led to migration and many challenges for migrants.

Both of the new lengthy resolutions were prepared through the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration, a unit composed of representatives from the various program agencies and ethnic caucuses of the denomination.

The General Board of Global Ministries formally submitted the global document; the General Board of Church and Society submitted the second on the domestic side.

The first defines the categories of migrants, describes the current context of migration, and examines the biblical background.

With this resolution, entitled "Global Migration and the Quest for Justice," the church commits itself to help all types of migrants and to engage in advocacy on their behalf. It urges investigation of what causes displacement and marginalization and calls for the preparation of "educational resources for the achievement of these objectives." Responsibility for these resources lies with Global Ministries, Church and Society, and other church agencies.

The United Methodist Church has a long history of refugee resettlement through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The global resolution commends this ministry and also advocates for the "unification of families divided by borders and legal status wherever this occurs."

The other resolution, "Welcoming the Migrant to the United States," was written to incorporate six other resolutions that currently appear in the church's Book of Resolutions. Amendments in legislative committee further incorporated proposed actions dealing with immigration.

A third resolution, this one proposed by Metodistas Associados Representando la Causa de Hispano-Americanos (MARCHA), addressed both US immigration reform and the church's responsibility to ensure fair treatment to immigrants.

"The broken immigration system in the United States and the xenophobic responses to migrants reflect the former social order," according to "Welcoming the Migrant to the United States." It states: "The calling of the people of God is to advocate for the creation of a new immigration system that reflects Jesus' beloved community."

"We challenge and pray for comprehensive reform," said Bishop Joel Martinez of San Antonio, president of Global Ministries, who supported the resolutions. "This is no time to demean the immigrant." The bishop said he is confident that the church will "rally behind" the adopted resolutions.

A revision of the Social Principles replaces a statement on migrant workers with a more global perspective. "We call upon governments and all workers to ensure for foreign workers the same economic, educational, and social benefits enjoyed by other citizens," the new statement says.

Two additional resolutions include calls for specific groups to be permitted to migrate to the United States. These petitions call for the right of immigration and citizenship for children of US citizens in Japan and the Philippines. One of the resolutions specifies welcoming "the sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans who are or were naturalized citizens of the United States."

More General Conference 2008 News

*Freelance journalist Andrew J. Schleicher is on the General Conference communications team for the General Board of Global Ministries.


See Also...

Topic: Civil rights Human rights Immigration United Methodist Church
Geographic Region: World
Source: GBGM Press Releases
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Date posted: May 01, 2008