3:00 P.M. EST May 26, 2010
A May 14 immigration protest in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, attracts many young people. A UMNS photo courtesy of Laura Rambikur.
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Mariana, 19, walked for two days through the desert near the Mexico
border town of Sonora, Nogales, with her 15-month-old son, Eric. She was
trying to cross the border to reunite with her husband, who lives near
The border patrol picked up the two and brought them to San Juan
Basco, a migrant shelter. Laura Rambikur, 25, and a recent graduate from
North Arizona University, was volunteering at the shelter when Mariana
“She was the youngest woman at the shelter that night,” Rambikur
said. “I cannot wrap my mind around the desperation that drove this
young mother to risk her life and the life of her son so they could have
a better life—it’s so heartbreaking.”
Rambikur is one of many young United Methodists who feel it is their
responsibility as a Christian to welcome the stranger. And to speak out.
“Jesus was no politician, but if we take the works that Jesus did out
of the context of social justice, we lose the relevance of his
teachings,” she said.
Welcoming the stranger
A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found most Americans 45 and
older were more likely to agree with the Arizona law, while young people
favored a welcoming-the-stranger approach.
A young woman shouts her support during a March 2010 immigration rally on the National Mall in Washington. A UMNS
photo by Christian Galdabini.
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The poll found while 41 percent of Americans ages 45 to 64 and 36
percent of older Americans said immigration levels should be decreased,
only 24 percent of those younger than 45 said so.
According to the Pew Research Center and other centers studying the
newest generation, millennials are more tolerant of diversity in
religion and family, and have a positive attitude toward immigration.
The Pew Center is conducting a yearlong series of reports on today’s
teens and 20-somethings. “We already know a few big things about the
millennials. They are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of
youth in the nation's history,” one report states. “Among those ages 13
to 29: 18.5 percent are Hispanic; 14.2 percent are black; 4.3 percent
are Asian; 3.2 percent are mixed race or other; and 59.8 percent, a
record low, are white.”
John Hodges, 26, on staff with the United Methodist Young People’s
Ministries in Nashville, Tenn., said he went to high school with people
from many different ethnic groups.
“It was my age and being part of a very diverse generation that helped to form my opinion on subjects like diversity,” he said.
Faith groups have a responsibility
“As a person of faith, I support immigration reform as an expression
of my values—human dignity, justice, the value of life and the creation
of all people as an expression of God’s love—that I learned in my church
and from my family,” said Margi Ault-Duell, 25, who works for
BorderLinks in Tucson, Ariz., and is a lifelong United Methodist.
BorderLinks focuses on education around border and immigration issues, she said.
Ault-Duell is part of a vocal group of young people speaking out for
immigration reform in the wake of Arizona’s new law, which allows police
to detain suspected illegal immigrants for deportation.
A pair of child’s shoes and a cross are part of a shrine honoring those
who have died trying to cross the desert. A UMNS photo courtesy of
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Witnessing the “hate and negativity” aimed at immigrants was
“confusing and hurtful” to Glen Simpson, young adult coordinator for the
United Methodist Desert Southwest Annual (regional) Conference. He
wondered how a nation built on immigration could not be open to reform.
“I continue to learn more about immigration, and in this journey, I
hear of horrifying stories that are pulling families apart and
mistreating human beings. As a Christian, not only am I to love my
neighbor, but I am called to be a servant of the poor, a servant of the
oppressed and a servant of the migrant,” he said.
Jacqueline Serrato, 22, said her grandparents were part of the
Bracero guest-worker program in effect between 1942 and 1964, and her
parents gained residency through the 1986 amnesty act.
“Immigration legislation has, therefore, been instrumental to the
survival (and struggle) of my family. I cannot help but to sympathize
and advocate for other families who are walking the same rope of hope,”
she said. She recently graduated from Colgate University with a degree
in Latin American studies and Spanish literature. She has been a member
of the same United Methodist church since she was 8.
“People of faith have a moral duty to speak out against oppression of
any kind,” Serrato said. “Considering how most recent immigrants come
from Latin American countries that are still heavily Christian, our
local churches should feel even more compelled to provide spiritual and
social healing to impoverished and oppressed immigrant communities.”
Faith communities have a responsibility to step up, Rambikur said.
“It is at the core of the Christian faith to love one another and to walk in solidarity with the poor and oppressed.”
Diverse backgrounds, diverse opinions
The diversity that makes Generation Y so unique means young people are not of one mind on any issue.
Laura Rambikur stands at a border wall in Sasabe, Ariz., a small town on the Arizona-Mexico border. A UMNS photo courtesy
of Laura Rambikur.
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Ben Simpson, 29 and a member of The United Methodist Church of the
Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., thinks that “Christians are called to be
welcoming to the stranger.”
“I think there are larger political considerations at hand that are
very complex, needing a theologically informed and politically wise
solution,” he said. “We need … channels through which immigration can be
accomplished legally and responsibly that protects the rights of
existing citizens and is dignifying for those that would enter into a
“My generation is diverse not only in terms of our identity but also
in terms of our politics,” Ault-Duell said. “That’s because we’ve been
exposed to such a wide range of ideas, values and cultures, and we have
been learning to navigate the diversity that definitely exists in the
*Gilbert is a writer of 18-34 content at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.