United Methodist bishops, social-justice agency welcome step forward on immigration reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church welcomes the Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform presented by eight U.S. Senators Monday, January 28. This framework offers necessary steps towards policy solutions, particularly regarding a pathway to full citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and the strengthening of the family immigration system, both of which are crucial aspects of any legislation that is both effective and humane.

The framework is being put forward by Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

The framework’s principles offer necessary steps towards immigration policy solutions that are just and humane, according to Bishop Minerva Carcaño, episcopal leader of the Los Angeles Area (California-Pacific Conference) and chair of the United Methodist Interagency Taskforce on Immigration. “A pathway to full citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and policies that will allow the reunification of immigrant families are crucial aspects of any legislation that strives to be effective and humane,” she emphasized.

Carcaño said the steps being recommended in the framework help the United States move toward immigration reform, but she cautioned that there is much more work to be done. “One specific area of concern is making a pathway to full citizenship contingent on even stronger and potentially harsher border enforcement,” the bishop said. “We will continue to monitor the plan for implementing these principles for immigration reform. I do, however, applaud our senators for their hard work and look forward to working closely with them in moving these principles toward effective, just and humane legislation.”

The framework contains essential elements such as a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants called "DREAMers" and agricultural workers. It would also reduce waiting times for separated families to be reunited thereby strengthening the family immigration system and would protect the rights of workers with strong labor protections.

Rectify enforcement-first proposals

Unfortunately, the framework also makes the pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants contingent on more onerous border enforcement, some of which could take years or even decades to achieve. "The enforcement-first proposals must be rectified before these proposals can be effective legislation," stressed Bishop Robert Hoshibata, episcopal leader of the Phoenix Area (Desert Southwest Conference) and president of the General Board of Church & Society.

Hoshibata pointed out that The United Methodist Church has led in the grassroots mobilization of the faith community across the United States, organizing hundreds of public witness events in support of just, humane immigration reform. “United Methodists are calling for humane and common-sense solutions because they see firsthand how our immigration system tears families apart, exploits workers, and keeps entire communities terrorized under our current enforcement policies,” he emphasized.

The United Methodist Church believes “at the center of Christian faithfulness to Scripture is the call we have been given to love and welcome the sojourner … to refuse to welcome migrants to this country and to stand by in silence while families are separated, individual freedoms are ignored, and the migrant community in the United States is demonized … is complicity to sin” (“Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S.”, 2012 Book of Resolutions).

Moral courage needed by Congress

Just as United Methodists have led in the struggle to defend and support the rights of immigrants, they are organized and ready to work closely with Congress and President Obama to see the principles in this framework that are just and effective enacted into legislation, according to Jim Winkler, chief executive of the General Board of Church & Society.

“We need Congress to show the moral courage necessary to enact immigration reform,” Winkler said. “The framework has created a first step towards just, workable reform, and with some changes, can improve the lives of our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Winkler said immigration reform must be both moral and practical. “It will secure both the future of the United States and the rights of immigrants and their families,” he said. “We applaud the leadership by the Senators and we urge all members of Congress to work towards enactment of just reform as soon as possible.”

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.

Contact Info

Wayne Rhodes
Director of Communications
General Board of Church & Society
(202) 488-5630 / wrhodes@umc-gbcs.org

or

Bill Mefford
Director of Civil & Human Rights
General Board of Church & Society
(202) 488-5657 / bmefford@umc-gbcs.org