Immigrants should be treated humanely, United Methodists say



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Immigrants should be treated humanely, United Methodists say

April 25, 2008     News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011  
tparham@flumc.org    Orlando {0839}

An e-Review Feature
By Linda Bloom and Erik J. Alsgaard**

FORT WORTH, Texas — Amid signs proclaiming that “No human being is illegal” and “You shall love the sojourner,” about 300 United Methodists gathered for an April 24 lunchtime rally in the Water Gardens behind the Fort Worth Convention Center, host site of the 2008 General Conference.

Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker speaks at a rally for immigrants’ rights outside the Fort Worth Convention Center. Rally participants were encouraged to take immediate action on immigration reform by calling their congressional representatives and local churches to oppose H.R. 4088, the SAVE Act, a bill focused on strict enforcement of immigration laws. More than 1,000 United Methodist delegates, including 26 from Florida, are at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, until May 2. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #08-0822.

After members of First Tongan United Methodist Church of Waimanalo, Hawaii, drew the crowd with song and dance, church leaders advocated for immigrant, civil and human rights.
 
The rally was organized by the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration and led by Bishop Minerva Carcaño of Phoenix, its chairperson, to highlight immigration-related legislation being considered by General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body.
 
The task force itself developed two proposed resolutions — one on global migration and another on immigration in the United States — under the sponsorship of the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries and Board of Church and Society.
 
Rally participants were encouraged to take immediate action on immigration reform by turning on their cell phones and calling their congressional representatives and their local churches to oppose H.R. 4088, the SAVE Act, a bill focused on strict enforcement of immigration laws.
 
“As United Methodists, we’ve always been concerned about the subject of immigration,” said Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker. He reminded participants that 20 years ago, the denomination’s Council of Bishops addressed the issue in a letter titled, “To Love the Sojourner.”
 
The basis of that letter can be found in the Bible, and the ethical implication “is the call that we have from God to practice hospitality to all people,” he added.

“We need to call one another to remember that we understand that all people are created of one blood in the image and the likeness of God. And that is the basis on which we view one another,” Whitaker said. “Given that theological understanding, we must make our protest and offer our assistance to people to see immigrants in a new way, beyond the racism that so often is characteristic of our views of immigrants in our culture.”

The bishop also spoke of the church’s concern over the breakup of families through the enforcement of current immigration policies and laws.

“In Florida, we have had mothers and fathers taken away form their young children in the middle of the night without warning, and those children are left here in the United States and have to be brought up by members of their congregations or distant relatives here,” he said. “Not only as Christians, but as Americans, we have to be concerned about protecting the integrity and the well-being of families.”

The bishop also said slavery is not dead in the United States. In Florida, he commended a coalition of workers in Immokalee, Fla., for its leadership in liberating people who have been brought to the Unites States against their will. “These people work in our farms and in our fields under conditions of slavery,” he said.

Lorenza Andrade-Smith, a seminarian at St. Paul School of Theology, takes part in a rally for immigrants’ rights during the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey. Photo #08-0823.

“As Bishop John Innis reminded us, we’re all created in the image of God,” Whitaker told the rally. “With that conviction in mind, let us lead the way to a new view of immigrants and some enlightened policies on immigration.”
 
Other speakers at the rally spoke of their troubles with the current state of immigration. In upstate New York, the tightened border with Canada means members of the Mohawk Indian tribe have trouble visiting family on either side, according to the Rev. Alvin Deer, a Native American United Methodist from Oklahoma. “If we shut off our borders, we, as Native Americans, are shutting off our people,” he said.
 
Kyung Za Yim, president of United Methodist Women and a Korean-American laywoman, pointed out that “I, too, am American, even though my face is the face of a stranger.”
 
United Methodist Women, which had a number of participants at the rally, has made immigrant rights a priority of its mission work.

“All will benefit from stamping out anti-immigrant rhetoric and racist policies,” Yim declared.
 
How a person immigrates to the United States makes no difference in the long run, the Rev. Tyrone Gordon, a Dallas pastor, pointed out. “Some came on cruise ships, some came on immigrant ships, some came on slave ships, but we’re all in the same boat now,” he said.
 
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*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference. Bloom is a United Methodist News Service writer based in New York.




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