Two churchwide ethnic caucuses call for immigration reform
April 27, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Jay Mallin
Thousands of protesters gather on the National Mall during a national day of protest April 10, on behalf of immigrants.
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
May 1 has been designated “a day without immigrants,” and two United
Methodist associations representing Asian Americans and Hispanic/Latino concerns
have joined in the call for comprehensive immigration reform.
The statements from the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists
and Methodists Associated to Represent the Cause of Hispanic Americans come
as Congress grapples with the reform issue.
“Asian-Americans are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants,” said
the Rev. Mark Nakagawa, pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Los
Angeles. “Therefore, we identify with the social, economic and political
struggles of contemporary immigrants.”
MARCHA will be joining the May 1 protest, which calls for the entire immigrant
community in the United States to abstain from working, buying or even going
into the streets.
“This is an effort to demonstrate what it would be like in the U.S.
without the presence and contributions of immigrants from all ethnic backgrounds
(legal and illegal),” said Mary Silva, executive director of MARCHA. “Many
in our new Hispanic congregations are putting their jobs and futures on the
line in deciding to join this initiative.”
MARCHA will close its office that day “in support and solidarity with
our growing Hispanic community,” Silva said.
“We are a nation made up primarily of immigrants,” said Kah-Jin
Jeffrey Kuan, associate professor of Old Testament and director of the certificate
of ministry studies program
at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. “Nonetheless, our
nation’s history in its treatment of immigrants is less than stellar
and leaves much to be desired.”
Faculty and students at the Pacific School of Religion will be joining a rally
and march May 1 in San Francisco.
|A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin
Bishop Jeremiah Park (center) joins some 100 other United Methodists at a rally for immigrants at City Hall Park in New York.
Congress must ensure the rights and dignity of all immigrants and foreign
visitors, and ensure the protection of the basic human rights of immigrants
and refugees, such as the right to an education, adequate health care, and
due process of law,” said the statement from MARCHA.
Both statements called current legislation on immigration “an affront
to the biblical mandates to treat the alien and strangers among us with fairness,
justice and love (Leviticus 19, Deuteronomy 24), and not exploit the most vulnerable
of God’s people among us.”
“As an Asian American, I am reminded of the Chinese Exclusion Act of
1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII,” Kuan said. “HR4437
passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that will criminalize illegal immigrants
will have the greatest impact on communities of color, most particularly the
MARCHA’s statement urges Congress to pass the Development, Relief and
Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and to grant permanent residence to
college-bound students who have grown-up in the United States.
Both statements also addressed the issue of reuniting families of immigrants.
“Congress must work to reform our family-based immigration system to
significantly reduce the time families have to wait in order to be re-united
with their loved ones,” said the MARCHA statement. “Congress must
create legal avenues for migrant workers and their families to enter the U.S.
and work in a safe, legal and orderly manner with their rights fully protected.”
“Asian-Americans have been exploited as sources of cheap labor throughout
America’s history,” Nakagawa said. “Many great fortunes have
been made off the backs of Chinese immigrant railroad workers, (and) Filipino
and Japanese farm workers in the early part of the 20th century. Thus, we understand
that the viewpoint of immigration issues from a legal/illegal context is just
too simplistic a viewpoint.”
“This is not merely an issue about immigration and borders, but also
about race, class and economic exploitation. It is a justice issue,” Kuan
“There are so many Asian Americans who would benefit from immigration
reform,” said Inday Larot Day, executive director of the National Federation
of Asian American United Methodists. “There are Asian Americans who did
not take advantage of the amnesty offered years ago because they were afraid
of being deported. Of the estimated 12 million undocumented persons in the
U.S., I would say there are at least 3 million Asian Americans included in
“I would encourage everyone to prayerfully consider how they can best
respond to the growing challenges that the immigrant population face,” Silva
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville,
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or