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Bishop calls for immigration reform

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
April 6, 2006

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño has asked Arizona lawmakers “to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows” and begin treating them fairly and justly in the variety of jobs they have assumed for society.

Carcaño, bishop of the Arizona and Southern Nevada areas, made the plea April 4. She was joined by Bishop Gerald Kicana of the Roman Catholic Church in Tucson, Bishop Kirk Smith of the Episcopal Church in Arizona and other religious leaders in making a statement that urged state legislators “to lead us as one community in search of common good.”

”There is no question that Arizona is at the epicenter of what is now a national policy issue,” the statement said. “The negative rhetoric used by some in our state that demonizes undocumented immigrants has contributed to a polarized atmosphere both locally and nationally. This is not an atmosphere for thoughtful policy making.”

Carcaño has been asked by the United Methodist Council of Bishops to represent the council on immigration issues in Washington and will be joining other religious leaders at an April 10 march at the U.S. Capitol. The march is expected to draw hundreds of thousands rallying for immigration reform. Marches on that day will also be held in Miami, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and San Antonio.

She is also working with Bishop Max Whitfield, episcopal leader of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas annual conferences, to draw up a task force to examine Resolution 118 in the denomination’s Book of Resolutions.

”Resolution 118 fundamentally states that we believe our present immigration policies are not helpful and perhaps not even humane,” she said. “It is clear that our country needs comprehensive immigration reform.”

She said reform would need to include several things.

”It is true we need to have safe and secure borders, but we also need to look at a pathway for citizenship for those in this country who have worked here for years.”

She notes there are 12 million undocumented workers in the United States and moving them out of the country would be difficult, costly and undermine not only the economy, but also “our way of life.”

”The other concern is that comprehensive immigration reform needs to take into consideration good and fair and just conditions for immigrants who are doing work, particularly agribusiness work,” she said. “Because they live in the shadows of society people take advantage of immigrants … We need to bring them out of the shadows.”

The issue of family reunification is important and must be held up before Congress, she said.

”There are too many immigrant families that are fragmented, some living here and some living in other countries because we don’t have good ways to keep families together.”

Carcaño said in some states like Arizona, the issue of immigration is becoming a political pawn being used for purposes of re-election or toppling one party to replace another.

When a concern like immigration — that affects so many families — is used for political reasons, “that is sinful,” she said.

Carcaño said she would encourage United Methodists to examine what state leaders are doing because some of the negative bills before Congress are “seeping down into local conversations.”

”Biblically, theologically, I am concerned we have forgotten what Scripture says about how we treat the immigrant,” she said. “I would hold up Leviticus 19 where it says the sojourner among us is to be treated as native born.”

Christ Jesus held the love of neighbor as second only to the love of God, she said. “This is who we understand ourselves to be and we need to remember that.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Justice for Our Neighbors