By the Rev. Lyda Pierce
The General Board of Church and Society is encouraging all United Methodists to contact their senators and congressional representatives urging them to pass the Dream Act. With the United States Senate actively debating the fate of Dreamers this week before a looming March 5 deadline, I hope you’ll seriously consider it.
It is true that every single member of the church must make up their own minds regarding public policy. However, it is also true that The United Methodist Church, as a body, has strongly supported the rights of people to immigrate and has historically understood the church’s responsibility to care for the immigrants and refugees in our midst as part of God’s call to love the stranger.
Personally I’ve simply been gifted with so many friends and neighbors who may or may not have immigration documents, that I want them to stay. I want their families to stay together. I want the young people brought to the U.S. as children, whom we call Dreamers, the ones who are students and workers and good neighbors, to be able to continue to study, work, have families and attend church here in the U.S.
Supporting Dreamers is not such a selfless idea. It may even be a selfish one because the vast majority of these young people are good for our churches and our communities. Their continued presence will help each to be more energetic, joyful, compassionate and economically better off as they contribute their skills toward our common life together.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a temporary authorization to study and work without fear as a Dreamer, but the President is trying to end the program. Congress is discussing DACA and the Dream Act, which would grant the Dreamers a chance to apply for permanent residency and eventually for citizenship. Most of the country is in favor of these Dreamers having some way of staying in the U.S. but there are lots of details about which there is not agreement. In the midst of many heated discussions, the church provides these preferences as guides to our thought.
The church has generally held these preferences:
- Support of a clean Dream Act with a pathway to citizenship
- Support of a family based immigration system because unified, healthy families of all kinds make for healthy communities. Just as we see God revealed as a community of three that forms One, so we are created for community, and that community starts with family.
- The church has opposed measures that sound like security but are invasions of privacy and community. For example, allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to local resources, jails, personal information and the use of local law enforcement to detain immigrants who are not dangerous criminals.
So I urge you join in this special week with Congress discussing immigration:
Tell Congress to Keep Families Together and Protect Dreamers.
*Please call 3 times to be connected to your 2 Senators first and then your 1 Representative.
Use your own words, or these if you want help as to what to say:
Sample Script: “I am your constituent from [CITY/TOWN] and [as a United Methodist ] I strongly urge you to help enact a bipartisan, permanent solution that offers a pathway to citizenship for the whole dreamer population and protects access to family reunification, such as the Dream Act or the USA Act, which is narrowly tailored to protect as many dreamers as possible and includes a data-driven approach to accountable border security that emphasizes the importance of consultation with border communities. This is urgent, as more than 19,000 DACA recipients have lost their protection and hundreds of thousands will if congress fails to act. My community welcomes immigrants, and I call on you to reflect the best of America’s values by taking a stand to protect dreamers and preserve family unity.”
You can also sign an email to your congresspersons through the UMC Church and Society:
Finally, a few related items before I go for those who want to learn or experience more.
40 Days in the Desert / 40 Dias en el Desierto is a Lenten daily reflection, in English and Spanish that has been prepared by the university student ministry in Tucson Arizona: Frontera Wesley. You can follow along on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
- Frontera Wesley Facebook Page – facebook.com/FronteraWesley
- Frontera Wesley Instagram – @frontera_wesley
I’ve also gathered a lot of information on immigration, both national and regional on the Greater Northwest Area Website. greaternw.org/welcome
To learn more about Dreamers, visit: United We Dream: https://unitedwedream.org/
Finally you can stay in touch with our efforts to welcome our neighbors via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pnwwelcomesimmigrant/
Want to dialogue or do more? Send me an email!
The Rev. Lyda Pierce serves as director of Hispanic/Latino Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference Office of Connectional Ministries.
Image Credit: Composite of images from the UMC Church and Society Website.