|United Methodists stand with arrested workers|
Iowans gather in front of the federal building in
Des Moines for a vigil in support of workers arrested in an immigration
raid. A UMNS photo by Kristin Clark Nolan.
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
May 20, 2008
More than 300 "little lights" representing workers arrested in an
immigration raid in northeast Iowa were lit and then extinguished during
a "service of solidarity" held at First United Methodist Church in
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
The May 15 vigil was one of a series of faith events across Iowa that
have drawn attention to the plight of immigrant workers and their
families in the wake of the largest single-site immigration raid in U.S.
Iowa's United Methodist episcopal leader, Bishop Gregory V. Palmer,
responded by calling for an end to such raids and urging U.S. government
leaders to pass a comprehensive immigration policy that recognizes the
contributions of migrants to the U.S. economy and culture.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested the
workers––most from Mexico and Guatemala––in a May 12 raid on
Agriprocessors, the world's largest kosher meatpacking plant, in
The Rev. Jim Perdue organized the May 15 vigil in Sioux City in which candles represented the arrested workers.
"The service was moving and meaningful," said Perdue, pastor of
Mission Mateo 25, a Hispanic ministry of the United Methodist Northwest
"We now carry those souls in our hearts along the journey of faith."
Connected through Christ
Palmer's May 14 statement declares that all people––regardless of
nationality or legal status––are connected through Jesus Christ.
"Release those who have been detained today," Palmer said, "and work
with our elected officials to create a just and comprehensive
immigration policy, one that will fully incorporate the undocumented
among us into the life of this nation in ways that validate their
humanity and affirm the many ways in which they contribute and enrich
our culture here in Iowa, and our nation as a whole."
His statement was read during the Sioux City vigil attended by about 45 adults and 20 children.
"Release those who have been detained
today, and work with our elected officials to create a just and
comprehensive immigration policy." –Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
"I believe that people of faith and all persons of good will should
join together to embody the new social order of God’s transforming love,
power, and justice, which breaks the chains of fear, injustice, racism,
xenophobia, and violence," said Palmer, the newly elected president of
the denomination's Council of Bishops.
Perdue said the recent "frenzy of hatred" toward immigrants continues
a tradition of poor U.S. relations with Mexico and Central America,
dating to the early 20th century. He noted that the humanitarian
response to thousands of people affected by earthquakes in China this
month is a stark contrast to the anger and hatred being shown toward the
389 workers "whose lives and families have been shattered in Iowa."
"Hate is driving this, but it is not a question of law," he said. "It is about the United States becoming brown," Perdue said.
'Biblical mandate for hospitality'
United Methodists were among about 50 people who attended an earlier
vigil on May 14 in front of the federal building in Des Moines.
"It was very powerful for me to have them present and supporting the
Latino community," said the Rev. Barbara Dinnen, Las Americas Comunidad
de Fe, Trinity United Methodist Church.
"When I read the blogs on the Internet related to the newspaper
articles on the raid, I am torn apart by the racial tension and blind
hate against the Latinos that is clearly revealed in the
blogs. Racism and fear remain powerful sins. It is good to see
those who support our new neighbors and understand the Biblical mandate
The vigil was planned by Iowa Allies for Immigration Reform, a
coalition of churches and organizations that meets at Trinity United
The Postville raid and a December 2006 raid in Marshalltown have
created a sense of fear throughout the area, according to Dinnen. "The
community is afraid and they are staying home as much as possible," she
Many Christian groups have joined together to help families affected
by the raid. St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville has served as a
safe haven for immigrants who fled, and St. Paul Lutheran Church has
provided shelter as well, according to news reports.
"The ICE raid in Postville is yet another example of the harsh
environment of fear that immigrants––documented and undocumented––now
face, especially since the collapse of comprehensive immigration reform
last summer," said Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, president of Lutheran
Immigration and Refugee Service, Baltimore. "Our immigration law is
badly broken and desperately needs reform."
A "service of solidarity" is held at First United Methodist Church in Sioux City.
A UMNS photo by Richard Nevada.
Catholic Archbishop Jerome Hanus, Iowa, said the Postville raid
highlights the need for comprehensive immigration reform. "Families have
been disrupted; parents and children are filled with fear. Many are
uncertain whether their loved ones will be arrested, imprisoned
indefinitely or deported," he said.
The United Methodist Church supports U.S. immigration reform and, at
its recent General Conference meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, the church's
top legislative body adopted several resolutions on "welcoming the
"It is somewhat ironic that these raids took place in the days
immediately following the 2008 United Methodist Church’s policy-making
General Conference, which adopted resolutions opposing all actions
against immigrants that divide families and denigrate human beings,"
said Bishop Felton May, interim top executive for the church's Board of
"I pray for widespread ecumenical response," May said. "I pray also
that United Methodists will rally to the needs of those in detention
and, especially, to the needs of children affected by the arrest and
deportation of their parents. As a denomination, we want to make good on
the claims of our resolutions to seek justice for migrants and to
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in
Nashville, Tenn. Additional information for this report came from
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and from Christians for
Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Immigration Raid Response
Churches help families left behind after raids
Church supports justice for migrants
Church leaders support sanctuary for immigrants
Church urges humane treatment of immigrants
General Conference 2008
Mision Mateo 25
Immigrants in the United States: Ministries of Hospitality, Advocacy, and Justice
Iowa Annual Conference: Bishop Palmer's statement
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries
United Methodist Board of Church and Society