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Bishop thanks Obama for immigration reform focus


Bishop Minerva Carcaño marches Feb. 28 in Phoenix with demonstrators to protest crackdowns on illegal immigrants. A UMNS file photo by Kathy L. Gilbert. 

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*

April 15, 2009

A United Methodist bishop is applauding the White House for upcoming conversations on comprehensive federal immigration reform, which could affect some 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

President Barack Obama announced this week that his administration would begin discussions on immigration reform later this year, and published reports indicate that the administration would collaborate with a bipartisan, diverse group of experts to help build the framework for legislation.

“As United Methodists, we believe that immigration is a human rights issue that needs serious attention,” said Phoenix Bishop Minerva Carcaño in an April 13 statement thanking Obama for putting immigration reform on his agenda for 2009. She indicates her readiness to assist the president in immigration reform work because it “would truly serve the common good.”

Carcaño, also the chairwoman of the United Methodist task force on immigration, said the church stands “firmly in believing that the inherent value of all immigrants means that all of their civil liberties should be respected and maintained regardless of their legal status. We believe, however, that our present immigration policies violate these basic rights.”

White House objectives

The Obama administration wants to preserve the integrity of the country’s borders and support additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at ports of entry, according a White House Web site. It wants to fix the immigration system by removing incentives to enter the United States illegally, to bring people out of the shadows and to work with Mexico to cut down on illegal immigration.

The administration says the number of undocumented immigrants in the country has increased more than 40 percent since 2000, and annually more than a half-million people enter the United States illegally or overstay their visas. In addition, recent federal raids “only netted 3,600 arrests in 2006 and have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families,” according to the White House.

Bill Mefford, a staff member of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said that while the president has not given any particulars, “the fact that he is talking about it is extremely helpful and very appreciated.”

The bishop’s points

Carcaño is encouraging the administration to embrace comprehensive immigration to:

  • Provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants.
  • Reunify immigrant families that have been separated by immigration itself or due to workplace raids and detentions and deportations.
  • Increase the number of visas for short-term workers to enter the United States to work in a safe, legal and orderly way.
  • Extend legal protection to all workers who come to stay for a certain period of time as well as for those who stay permanently, including the right to bargain for higher wages, to protest against poor working conditions, and to preserve their human rights as workers, be they documented or undocumented.
  • Eliminate privately operated detention centers, which are not regulated by the federal or state governments.
  • End all indiscriminate raids.

“Bishop Carcaño’s statement is right on. That is exactly where we need to be,” Mefford said.

The suffering of immigrants because of raids, indefinite detention and detention without federally regulated standards is a reason the church stands in solidarity with them, he said. “The suffering that immigrants have been going through has been immense. So as a church, it is our responsibility, it is our calling, it is our mission, to stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters and advocate for justice on their behalf.”

Carcaño’s outline is where immigration reform should focus, Mefford added. “It’s an end to raids, a pathway to citizenship, it is s protection of the rights of workers, it is the reunification of families, and it is to be applied to all undocumented workers and not just some.”

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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Resources

Carcaño Statement

Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Immigration—Obama-Biden

United Methodist Board of Church and Society

Immigrants in the United States: Ministries of Hospitality, Advocacy, and Justice

Immigration and Refugees—UMCOR

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