Commendable ‘critical first step’

Obama and speechwrtiers

President Barack Obama works on his immigration speech with Director of Speechwriting Cody Keenan and Senior Presidential Speechwriter David Litt in the Oval Office, Nov. 19. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) has sent a letter to President Obama commending him on his Nov. 20 executive order that extends deferred status to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants. The letter also emphasizes that this executive order is a “critical first step” toward recognizing the dignity and worth of more than 11 million undocumented persons in the United States.

The president expanded eligibility for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to individuals who arrived in the United States prior to Jan. 1, 2010, before turning 16. Others in the United States since Jan. 1, 2010, and who have U.S.-citizen or lawful-permanent-resident children can also apply for deferred action.

In addition, green-card holders with an undocumented spouse or minor child, and U.S. citizens with an undocumented adult son or daughter can apply for a waiver to allow their family member to stay in the country during most of the application process, rather than awaiting their visa outside the United States.

The letter thanks the president for shutting down the Secure Communities program that has 'increased racial profiling.'

The Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, GBCS chief executive, signed the letter from the agency. Copies of the letter were also sent to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Cecilia Muñoz, assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House.

The letter thanks the president for shutting down the Secure Communities program that has “increased racial profiling” and further increased an atmosphere of fear among immigrant communities.

A first step

The letter acknowledges that this executive order is but a first step toward fixing the U.S.’s broken immigration system. The letter calls on the White House and Congress to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that is just.

The letter acknowledges that this executive order is but a first step toward fixing the U.S.’s broken immigration system.

United Methodists “have been standing up to offer hospitality and refuge for immigrants and their families, and speaking out on their behalf,” the letter points out. It adds, “We also, however, stand with those who continue to be in the shadows because their situation does not qualify for the reprieve your executive order provides.”

For example, the letter states that the executive order does not relieve all persons searching for a way to reunite with family, seeking asylum, or trying to make a better life for themselves.

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.

The letter to President Obama follows:

Letter to President Obama
on immigration executive order

The General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church commends your order to grant deferred status for as many as five million undocumented immigrants through Immigration Accountability Executive Actions. Such an order is a critical first step toward recognizing the dignity and worth of more than 11 million undocumented persons in our communities.

Many United Methodists have been standing up to offer hospitality and refuge for immigrants and their families, and speaking out on their behalf. Therefore, we rejoice with the many families who now may remain together. We give heartfelt thanks for ending the “Secure Communities” program that increased racial profiling and made persons fearful to come forward to report a crime. Such fear does not live up to our nation’s tradition of human rights, respect, and decency for all persons.

We also, however, stand with those who continue to be in the shadows because their situation does not qualify for the reprieve your executive order provides. The order does not relieve all persons searching for a way to reunite with family, seeking asylum, or trying to make a better life for themselves.

The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles “recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of origin, as members of the family of God.” That family does not include only mothers, fathers and their progeny, but also the widow, the orphan, and, as you, Mr. President, so pointedly noted, the foreigner (Exodus 23:9). We must continue to work together so that all of our brothers and sisters are able to stand in the light of freedom, justice, and opportunity.

We know that this executive action only provides temporary relief from deportation. We realize it is not the ultimate goal of comprehensive, just immigration reform. Thus, we call on the White House and Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that reforms our broken immigration system.

We urge you, Mr. President, to continue to courageously promote peaceful order in our communities, freeing us from the fear of discrimination and the sin of over-incarceration that plagues our nation. Be assured, The United Methodist Church will continue to stand for justice and peace for all those who suffer violence and oppression in our world.

—Susan T. Henry-Crowe
General Secretary
General Board of Church & Society
The United Methodist Church
November 21, 2014

Editor's note: Humanitarian organization Church World Service (CWS) advises that individuals who may be eligible for expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or the separate deferred action program can gather documents that establish their identity, how long they have lived in the United States, and relationship to a U.S. citizen or greencard holder. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services will not begin accepting applications until early 2015.

CWS encourages communities to be on the alert for notario fraud, and to direct individuals for information and help filing their applications to credible legal resources, including:

Letter to the Editor