|United Methodists Join in Call for Justice, Comprehensive Immigration Reform|
Washington, DC, February 12, 2009--Faith communities in the United States are being called to pray and work for a just and comprehensive reform of what were described as broken immigration laws.
A campaign of "Prayer, Renewal and Action on Immigration" was announced on February 11 at a Washington press conference organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. The campaign is addressed to pending consideration by Congress of current immigration laws and the public debate around immigration issues.
Several speakers also pointed to recent incidents in which undocumented persons have been subjected to violence and inhumane treatment by law enforcement.
"There is a growing violence in this country against persons seeking refuge from economic and political pressures as well as from hunger and war in their countries," said United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño of Phoenix. "We stand here today to declare, 'No more.'" The bishop is chair of the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration reauthorized by the denomination's legislating General Conference last April 2008.
The interfaith immigration group is calling upon congregations and organizations to hold prayer vigils in the near future to alert the new administration of President Barack Obama that faith communities are committed to just and equitable immigration laws.
Attempts over the last two years to effect comprehensive legal reform has failed in Congress. Some factions argue that current laws are too lax regarding undocumented persons and others contend that the laws are too strict and lack provisions that would protect the unity of families and provide for workers needed by agriculture and other industries.
Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish leaders were joined at the press conference by several members of Congress. Staff of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society played key roles in organizing the event. The Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries has invited its local units to consider holding local prayer vigils.
"I have heard so many stories where parents are torn apart from their children, and family members with decades to reunite," said Congressman Mike Honda of California. "This broken immigration systems works for no one, and undermines our economy and fabric of our communities."
Bishop Carcaño illustrated her charge of violence against detainees. "Just last week 200 immigrant men in shackles and prison stripes were marched through the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, under armed guard to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence," she said, continuing:
Apparently these immigrants were being sent to await deportation in this newly created detention camp that brought them much human degradation and humiliation but brought much media attention to Sheriff Arpaio. Sheriff Arpaio claims to be an official participant in a federal policing program [287(g)]. What is clear is that his style of policing has created a climate of fear in our communities, unleashed a vicious wave of ethnic bashing, and shown a complete disregard for basic human rights. Arizona does not stand alone in this shameful scene, for what is happening in Arizona is happening all across this country.
The United Methodist General Conference, meeting last spring in Fort Worth, Texas, adapted several major resolutions on both global migration and immigration in the United States. All of the measures encouraged governments to enact and abide by humane policies regarding economic migrants as well as refugees from war and disaster.
The task force Bishop Carcaño leads has five episcopal members and representatives for virtually all United Methodist general agencies and ethnic/minority caucuses. The General Board of Church and Society, based in Washington, played a major role in organizing the press conference and in laying plans for the prayer vigils.
The full text of the bishop's comments at the press conference follows.
Comments of Bishop Minerva Carcaño at the press conference announcing the campaign on "Prayer, Renewal and Action Immigration," February 11, 2009, Washington, DC.
Date posted: Feb 12, 2009