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Immigrants in the United States: Ministries of Hospitality, Advocacy, and Justice

Our Christian roots are centered among people who were sojourners in the land. Throughout history, people have been uprooted under conditions similar to that of Mary and Joseph, who were forced to flee to save the life of their son. Most of our own forefathers and foremothers were immigrants to this country. The Bible is clear about how we should treat these wanderers:

When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt....
(Leviticus 19:33-34, RSV
)

Immigrants come to the United States because communities throughout our world are suffering from war, civil conflict, economic hardships, environmental destruction, and persecution for political, religious, ethnic, or social reasons. They come seeking food and shelter-refuge, but instead they are met with closed doors and detention centers fueled by attitudes of racism, fear or hatred of foreigners and hostility. Immigrants with or without legal status are vulnerable to human rights abuses starting with coyotes, or people who provide illegal transportation into the United States to the sub-standard working conditions and low-wages that swell business profits. Often immigrants are forced into prostitution and other forms of illegal work in order to pay their transportation debt.

For these reasons, we stand firmly opposed to state or federal legislative action such as the federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, California s Proposition 187, or any similar legislation which discriminates against immigrants and that may have the following effects:

  • Public Schools: Districts are required to verify the legal status of students enrolling for the first time. The status of parents or guardians of students must also be verified.
  • Higher Education: Undocumented immigrants are barred from community colleges and public institutions of higher learning.
  • Health: Undocumented immigrants as well as legal immigrants are ineligible for public health services, except for emergency care.
  • Welfare: Undocumented immigrants as well as legal immigrants are already ineligible for major welfare programs. Most child-welfare and foster-care benefits are also eliminated.
  • Law Enforcement: Service providers are required to report suspected undocumented immigrants. Law-enforcement agencies must verify the residency status of individuals arrested or suspected of being in the United States illegally. When legal residency cannot be proved, the person will be reported to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.

With grace and concern, the church must address the legal, economic, social, and human rights conditions of people who are legal or undocumented immigrants, and it must oppose the introduction of legislation by Congress or any state that would cause human suffering and a denial of such individual's rights as interpreted through our biblical understanding of God's grace to all peoples, but especially to the sojourner. Our faith, grounded in Christ and in the Wesleyan call to work for prophetic justice, calls us to follow our Social Principles and respond in appropriate and direct ways to prevent harm to the sojourner. Jesus teaches us to show special concern for the poor and oppressed who come to our land seeking survival and peace. We call upon United Methodist individuals and churches in the United States and through general boards and agencies throughout The United Methodist Church to do the following: (1) actively oppose anti-immigrant legislative action and support legislative action that protects the poor and oppressed in their quest for survival and peace; (2) urge stringent policing and penalties for coyotes (illegal transporters); (3) urge that humane and fair treatment be extended to all immigrants by business and agricultural groups; (4) advocate human rights (political, economic, and civil) for all people, including the strangers who sojourn in our land; (5) support communities and congregations by prayer and action where anti-immigrant measures are implemented; (6) continue to work with community organizations to provide forums for citizens to voice concerns, educate one another, and confront the problems of racism and fear or hatred of foreigners as obstacles to building community; (7) continue to work with civic and legal organizations to support communities who are now, or will be, affected by the destructive, deteriorating social issues raised by anti-immigrant measures; (8) support the legal needs of immigrants through church-based immigration clinics.

Finally, we call upon United Methodists to practice hospitality and express our commitment to an inclusive church and society through all our ministries in the spirit of our biblical tradition:

Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9, New International Version)

ADOPTED 1996
AMENDED AND READOPTED 2000

See Social Principles ¶ 164A.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church — 2004. Copyright © 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.



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