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Commentary: Stop the cruelty of immigration raids

Children demonstrate for comprehensive U.S. immigration reform during
a 2006 rally in Washington. A UMNS file photo by Rick Reinhard.

A UMNS Commentary
By the Rev. Eliezér Valentín-Castañón*
Oct. 13, 2008 

When news about the recent immigration enforcement raid in Greenville, South Carolina, came across my desk, I knew The United Methodist Church could not remain silent. Not only were innocent, hard-working people detained in this raid, but a number are members of one of our United Methodist missions in Greenville.

The Rev. Eliezér

We join our voices with the thousands of people and organizations who have expressed dismay and disbelief that these cruel raids—wreaking havoc and terror also in Iowa, Mississippi and other states—would be perpetrated on hapless workers and their families, both documented and undocumented, who merely seek to earn a decent living.

Certainly the actions of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency are within their purview. However, the attacks on this defenseless population are attacks on members of our communities who are contributing to society in ways many American don’t appreciate. It is reprehensible and immoral.

Both the immigrant families and the communities where they work and reside will suffer severe consequences in the long term from these raids, demonstrating a loss of our values and sensibility. When our government’s actions make innocent children parentless and homeless, when relatives young and old suddenly must wrestle with fear, confusion and despair, we cannot be silent and apathetic.

If our family and community values are to hold true, our government must stop these raids that are only creating desperation across the United States. We must speak out and organize against these senseless, abusive, oppressive acts.

It is time for the United States to live up to its creed, embodying the self-evident truth that all men and women are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain "inalienable rights," among them "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Undocumented immigrants are human beings, too. They feel pain and suffer like the rest of us. It is time for us to affirm their humanity and dignity in the way we treat them.

“When our government’s actions make innocent children parentless and homeless, when relatives young and old suddenly must wrestle with fear, confusion and despair, we cannot be silent and apathetic.”

At the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, the only body that speaks in behalf of the entire denomination, our church condemned these raids and affirmed "the worth, dignity and inherent value and rights of every person regardless of their nationality or legal status." Our church called for the U.S. government "to immediately cease all arrests, detainment and deportations of undocumented immigrants, including children, solely based upon their immigration status until a fair and comprehensive immigration reform bill is passed." (Petition #80637: Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S.)

We must pray and insist that this madness stops before we inflict more tragic harm to our brothers and sisters who, like us all, are made in the image of a loving God.

*Valentín-Castañón is associate general secretary, United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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