Commentary on Immigration
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
I applaud our elected officials in Washington who take time to meet with constituents including representatives of the religious leadership of America. A February meeting with Senator Grassley and representatives of President Obama’s office to address proposed immigration reform was revealing and hopeful.
Our senators and congressional representatives work long hours and do pay attention to the views of grass-root constituents who feel the direct impact of good policy, born of cooperation and compromise. The lack of progress on comprehensive immigration reform is one of the many unresolved issues that begs the question from many, “Just what are those elected to serve the citizens and uphold the Constitution doing?”
Comprehensive immigration reform, that strengthens the state’s economy and brings eleven million people living in the United States out of the shadows, will have widespread benefits. Bringing undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record off the economic sidelines would generate an estimated $1.5 trillion boost to the nations cumulative GDP over 10 years and close to $5 billion in additional tax revenue in just three years (Center for American Progress). A pathway to citizenship and a pool of verifiable registered immigrants would reduce unscrupulous employment practices and mistreatment of workers who fear deportation.
Little argument can be made that border patrol and enforcement has resulted in record numbers of arrests, detention and deportation. However, the billions spent on border enforcement and deportation has benefited the expansion of the private prison industry at the expense of ripping families apart and hampering processing and service industries in need of reliable workers.
As a Bishop of The United Methodist Church, I applaud those who champion a human rights approach to immigration reform. It seems that compassion and human rights have consistently come in a distant third to the paradigm of “enforcement first, economic justification/exploitation followed by our neighbors are here to stay.”
United Methodist Women have articulated core principles worthy of consideration: “We believe immigration laws should be grounded in fundamental civil and human rights and the human dignity of each individual. True reform means establishing a system that values migration, supports family unity, protects the rights of workers, promotes racial justice, ensures health of our communities and addresses the root causes of migration while preserving our basic American values.”
As I pray for those we have elected to make good decisions for the common good, I pray for movement toward comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform. It should include:
· An end to deportation for all but those who commit serious crimes.
· Adoption of the DREAM Act in its entirety.
· A pathway to full citizenship
· Protection of children separated from parents and reunification of families
· End of 287(g) programs, secure communities that enlist local law enforcement in immigration enforcement.
· End of programs that perpetuate violence against women.
A “beloved community” where the marginalized no longer fear becoming full participants of society will be a sign that comprehensive immigration reform has become reality.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
“A More Excellent Way"
- “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV Bible)
The time is right, and the argument can be made the time is past due, for humane immigration reform that brings over 11-million undocumented residents out of the shadows. The United States of America is on the threshold of a season of healing and hospitality that can make for a stronger and healthier economy as well as a model for creative compassionate change.
United Methodists (along with many other faith communities) have worked for and waited for the day that government policies, as well as polices of the church, reflect the sensitivity of the needs of undocumented immigrants. Because of the recent leadership of eight United States senators, we see a framework for immigration reform that will allow for a historical moment to “do justice and love kindness” in 2013.
We affirm our 2008 Church Resolution that included the statement, “the 2008 General Conference join with MARCHA (Methodists Associated to Represent the Cause of Hispanic/Latino Americans) and urge the United States Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that makes family unity, students being able to get an education at an affordable rate, fair just treatment of laborers, and a reasonable path toward citizenship a priority.” As we join others to advocate for comprehensive reform we are daily in ministry with families (often of mixed status) that desperately want to remain together and have access to education, work and citizenship.
As Christians, we can do no less than welcome and love the immigrant in our midst, because we ourselves were once strangers in a foreign land.