United Methodist bishops asked to advocate for immigrants
Jan. 6, 2005
|A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose
Habul (left) visits with United Methodist Ed Caflisch at Habul's home
in Kingsport, Tenn., in 2002. Area churches sponsored the Habul family's
move from Bosnia.
NEW YORK (UMNS) - United Methodist bishops are being urged to help lead
the denomination in understanding issues related to immigration reform.
A Jan. 3 letter addressed to each U.S. bishop notes that while it is
generally recognized that the U.S. immigration system needs to be fixed,
"the question is how it is to be fixed - and if this is to be in a
manner consonant with the tenets of our church as well as with the
security and economic needs of the nation and also its basic values."
The letter is signed by Bishop Joel Martinez, president of the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and Bishop Edward Paup, president
of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Co-signers are the Rev. R.
Randy Day and the Rev. Paul Dirdak, chief executives, respectively, of
the board and UMCOR.
UMCOR and the Board of Global Ministries "support a comprehensive
approach to reform - one that will enhance border security, implement an
effective guest-worker program, provide a path to citizenship with
reasonable requirements and reunify families."
Such an approach, according to the letter, is provided by the proposed
Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 (H.R. 2330), which
has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
Bishop Edward W. Paup
But another bill, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal
Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437), which passed the House in December,
is of concern to the denomination's mission leaders.
"Section 202 of the bill, which broadens the definition of alien
smuggling to include family members, employers and immigrant advocates,
could jeopardize UMCOR's Justice for Our Neighbors Program, which in 20
sites provides church-based, attorney-supervised, free legal counseling
for immigrants in an intentionally hospitable setting," the letter
It is hoped that input from United Methodists and other churches will
affect the outcome of the bill in the Senate early this year, the letter
In 1988, the United Methodist Council of Bishops issued a statement, "On
Undocumented Migration: To Love the Sojourner: A Statement of Concern
to the United Methodists in the United States of America," in response
to the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act.
A similar resolution was adopted by the 1996 General Conference, the
denomination's top legislative body, and amended and readopted in 2000
In addition, the 2004 Book of Resolutions contains official
church statements addressing the basic rights of immigrants and
protection of human and civil rights of undocumented workers.
Bishop Joel Martinez
The Justice for Our Neighbors Program, started in 1999, was a response
to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of
1996. Modeled after a local immigration project in Virginia, it provides
church-related legal clinics for immigrants.
The United Methodist Book of Discipline also requires the
denomination's annual (regional) conferences to appoint a refugee
coordinator to help churches assist refugees. That position, now called a
refugee/immigration coordinator, serves as a link with UMCOR and the
Justice for Our Neighbors Program.
The letter urges the bishops to ensure that appointments are made to the
refugee/immigration coordinator position in their own conferences.
"We hope that our bishops individually and as a body will be as
responsive to immigrants today as they were in the 1980s," the letter
says. "It is unhappily the case that both refugees and immigrants
continue to be in urgent need of both outreach in ministry from the
church and of the church voice lifted up in advocacy."
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.