As many of you know, there has been a great deal of conversations about immigration and immigration reform within our church communities as well as at the national level. Understanding that there is a great deal of passion and conviction about many aspects of our current immigration system and how best to engage in comprehensive immigration reform, the church must at times take a stand in the midst of the political discourse. With the recent passage of immigration laws in Arizona, many Presbyterians have been seeking a response from your leadership. Over the past weeks we have been discerning how best to respond in a way that holds to the mandates of General Assembly policy.
Below is a joint statement from myself; General Assembly Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons and General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director, Linda Valentine. Again, we understand that our approach to immigration must be multi-faceted and deliberate, but we wanted to respond with this first statement on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
On a personal note, I do know that many folks will disagree with our statement, but I believe this is consistent with our historic policies as set by General Assembly. I also choose to be part of such engagement understanding that passionate people will disagree passionately, but also do so convicted by Christ that this is where we are called to stand at this time in the unfolding of God’s reality.
For more information on PC(USA) Immigration Work, please visit http://www.pcusa.org/immigration/
April 29, 2010
Dear Members of Congress,
We write to express our conviction that you must enact comprehensive immigration reform this year. As people of faith and the leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we are keenly aware of the devastating effects our broken immigration system has on the lives of individuals, immigrant and non-immigrant families, and our communities. The bigotry, trauma, and fear that will result from the recent new law enacted in Arizona, SB 1070, which criminalizes those who are found “with” undocumented persons and requires law enforcement officers to identify and detain such persons, serves to underscore the necessity of action at the federal level.
Churches are on the front lines of caring for families being ripped apart by our broken immigration system. Traumatized citizen children left behind when parents are deported are but one example of the ways the current system destroys the fabric of community life, the integrity of healthy families, and the safety of individual persons. Church workers are also at the forefront of offering relief and services to immigrants, regardless of documentation status. Arizona’s new law will put at risk those workers and others who are called simply to offer the most basic of humanitarian assistance. As Christians, we cannot stand by idly while our brothers and sisters die on our borders from exposure and thirst or languish in poorly equipped detention facilities, nor should we be required to do so by any law.
The new Arizona law also puts in jeopardy the public safety of immigrant communities, already wary of law enforcement for fear of deportation. Instead of new laws that induce fear and distrust, immigrants should be encouraged to participate with law enforcement, reporting crimes when they are victims and offering testimony when they are witnesses. Such trust and participation is impossible if local law enforcement is tasked with enforcement of federal immigration laws. SB 1070 will only foster more fear among immigrant communities, regardless of documentation status. Comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level is essential to override and counteract the damage done in Arizona by this new law.
In the Scriptures of Christians and Jews, we are commanded, “When an immigrant resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the immigrant. The immigrant who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the immigrant as yourself for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:33-34). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) therefore supports congressional action in 2010 on comprehensive immigration reform that creates a process for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to earn their legal status; reduces waiting periods and upholds family unity; protects workers from exploitation; and provides efficient channels of entry for new migrant workers.
Moderator, 218th General Assembly (2008)
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Linda Bryant Valentine
Executive Director, General Assembly Mission Council