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Faith groups call for end to immigration raids

Thousands of immigrants and supporters rally on the grounds of the U.S.
Capitol in March 2006. A UMNS file photo by Rick Reinhard.

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By Wayne Rhodes*
Nov. 11, 2008 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)

Two United Methodist agencies are among signers of a letter to President Bush that calls for an end to all raids “which separate families and create distrust and fear among all community members.”

The letter expresses concern about “the growing dependence on raids as a primary means of dealing with our broken immigration system.” It also calls for legal, safe and orderly avenues for workers and their families to migrate to the United States with their rights fully protected.

Bill Mefford

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race were among 24 faith communities advocating for change. Bill Mefford, a staff executive with Church and Society, helped draft the letter.

“The fear and terror that so many immigrant families are experiencing because of sporadic raids conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement makes it important for all faith communities to stand in incarnational solidarity with immigrants and to loudly proclaim our opposition to this policy,” Mefford explained. “Raids must end now.”

Dated Oct. 27, the letter notes that faith communities “have witnessed the devastation” of such raids and “have been first to respond to the needs created by the sudden removal of parents from their children, who are often U.S. citizens.

“The raids have created undue hardship on immigrant families and the communities of faith who are unfailingly responding to the many needs of immigrants, their families, and our communities, whose resources are now being challenged to meet these needs.”

Raids violate rights

The letter charges that raids by ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security, have violated basic human rights and traditions fundamental to the United States, “such as welcoming immigrants, protecting community members, and upholding the due process of law.”

Indiscriminate raids often result in apprehending lawful U.S. residents, persons fleeing persecution and seeking asylum, and victims of human trafficking. Immigrants are often interrogated without access to legal counsel or an appropriate understanding of their rights, according to the letter.

While violations of immigration law are civil, not criminal, offenses, persons awaiting deportation are being held in facilities without accountable standards of humane treatment, and without access to medical treatment or religious services, the letter asserts.

“ICE raids tear apart families and foster a climate of fear and distrust in local communities,” the letter states, and estimates that five million U.S. citizen children have at least one undocumented parent. Fear of family separation, combined with inhumane treatment and detention, sparks distrust of public officials, decreases reports of crime, and jeopardizes community safety.

“Raids cannot bring about much-needed reform to our broken immigration system,” the letter states. “Effective and humane reform can only be achieved through allowing undocumented immigrants to rectify their status and apply to become lawful permanent residents.”

Other signers of the letter include American Friends Service Committee; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Refugee and Immigration Ministries; Council on American-Islamic Relations; Church World Service; Interfaith Worker Justice; Mennonite Central Committee, Washington Office.

Also, Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation; Presbyterian Peace Fellowship; Sikh Council on Religion and Education; Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Sojourners; Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations; and United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries. 

*Rhodes is the communications director for the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, Nashville (615) 742-5470 or Related Video

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