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Devastation of deportations must end, bishops declare in letter to President

By Kathy L. Gilbert
3:30 p.m. ET Feb. 26, 2014 | WASHINGTON

Members of the United Methodist Immigration Task Force sent a letter to President Obama Feb. 25 stating the policy of mass deportations is “morally reprehensible and must end.”

The letter follows an act of civil disobedience by 32 faith leaders who were arrested in front of the White House on Feb. 17. Undocumented immigrants stood and prayed with ecumenical faith leaders and members of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

United Methodist Bishops Julius Trimble, Iowa, and Minerva Carcaño, California-Pacific, led the peaceful demonstration and signed the letter to bring focus to the 1,100 deportations that are happening daily.

“The Obama administration will reach 2 million deportations soon, that’s 2 million people since 2009,” said Bill Mefford, executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

The letter to Obama states United Methodist churches across the country “have witnessed firsthand the devastation that results from raids that take place in homes, workplaces, and even in places of worship.”

Often, United Methodist churches are the first to respond when young dependent children are suddenly left alone after their parents are taken to detention centers.

Kneeling with the bishops on Feb. 17 were two family members who spoke of sudden arrests and threatened deportations of their loved ones.

Pilar Molina is speaking out, hoping for the quick release of her husband, Israel Resendiz-Hernandez, who was arrested Jan. 27 and is on a hunger strike at a Pennsylvania detention facility.

“We have two U.S. citizen daughters who ask every night, ‘When will our father be home?’” Molina said, tears in her eyes.

Hermina Gallegos Lopez said her 20-year-old daughter,Rosy, is in the Eloy Detention Center in Phoenix and is sick.

“I’m fasting for my daughter because she has been in detention for over five months. My daughter is sick and she is not getting the proper treatment she needs. I am fasting because every day that my daughter is in detention is a day that her health is in danger, if I don’t do anything she can die.”

Carcaño said United Methodists have mobilized tens of thousands in public witness events advocating for Congress to pass genuine immigration reform.

“Ultimately, we believe deportations will not convince Congress to do what is right by enacting genuine reform. Only by modeling what is just and right and stopping all deportations immediately will Congress and the rest of the country be convinced. You have done this once in a limited way through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and we believe you can and should do it again for all.”

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615)742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Bishops' Letter to President Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

On Monday, February 17, the United Methodist Immigration Task Force, led by Bishop Julius Trimble and Bishop Minerva Carcaño, along with ecumenical faith leaders and immigrant members of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network peacefully protested your continued dependence on mass deportations of our immigrant sisters and brothers. As people of faith we are committed to following the biblical mandate to welcome the sojourner. Therefore, we engaged in civil disobedience because we find the policy of mass deportations to be morally reprehensible and one that must end. We believe you have the authority to end deportations.

Deportations under your Administration have torn apart families and created distrust and fear among immigrant communities and in our churches. United Methodist churches across the country have witnessed firsthand the devastation that results from raids that take place in homes, workplaces, and even in places of worship. United Methodist churches have been among the first to respond to the needs created by the sudden removal of parents from their families, which often include young dependent children. Deportations have created undue hardship on immigrant families and the communities of faith who are faithfully responding to the many needs created by the removal of family members. As a consequence, many of our churches are overwhelmed by the needs with whom they minister and their resources are being exhausted.

We have heard your challenge to Congress to pass humane immigration reform and we agree with you that legislation will provide the only permanent solution. We are committed to advocating for genuine, solution-based reform that grants citizenship to undocumented immigrants and reunites separated families. We have led the faith community in mobilizing tens of thousands of United Methodists in public witness events advocating Congress to pass genuine immigration reform. We will continue to do so.

However, your policy of deportations must end and we respectfully ask for it to end immediately until just and humane immigration reform is passed. This has been our belief for quite some time. In 2008 The United Methodist Church passed a resolution that calls upon "the United States government to immediately cease all arrests, detainment, and deportations of undocumented immigrants" until such just and humane reform has been passed. (2012 Book of Resolutions)

Ultimately, we believe deportations will not convince Congress to do what is right by enacting genuine reform. Only by modeling what is just and right and stopping all deportations immediately will Congress and the rest of the country be convinced. You have done this once in a limited way through DACA and we believe you can  and should do it again for all.

We believe that all people, regardless of their legal status, have inherent value imbued to them by God, and therefore, as people of faith, we can only support policies which uphold the humanity and dignity of our immigrant sisters and brothers. Deportations violate these core principles and values. Therefore, we urge you to end all deportations until a just and humane immigration reform is passed.

Sincerely,

The United Methodist Immigration Task Force    

Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Resident Bishop
Iowa Area                                                       

Bishop Minerva Carcaño
Resident Bishop
Los Angeles Area