3:00 P.M. EST Mar. 16, 2010
Supporters of immigration reform march in Austin, Texas, in February. A UMNS photo by Louie Gilot.
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DALLAS (UMNS) — More than 500 United Methodist Texans plan to join in a national march for immigration reform in the nation’s capital March 21.
An estimated 12-million undocumented people live in the United States, and Texas has the second-largest population of immigrants in the country.
In coordination with the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days, tens of thousands of people will gather for the “March for America: Change Takes Courage & Faith.” The march is to urge President Obama and Congress to tackle comprehensive immigration reform this year.
“Achieving comprehensive immigration reform will require the unified voice of all the many ethnicities and races that make up The United Methodist Church in Texas,” said Lori Stafford, co-founder of Welcoming Immigrants Network. An active member of United Methodist Women, Stafford will attend the march.
“Together, we must do all we can to make sure that the people living and working in our state and nation are well-educated, safe from abuse and contributing fully to their new country,” Stafford said.
Our faith compels us to speak out on behalf of those who are vulnerable, said Bill Mefford, executive, United Methodist Board of Church and Society, and an organizer of the march.
“As United Methodists, and most important, as followers of Jesus, we are called to welcome the sojourner among us,” said Mefford, a Texas native. “I know churches throughout Texas are engaging in the ministry of hospitality to those who are so often neglected or exploited by the current broken immigration system. The March for America will present an opportunity for Texans to powerfully demonstrate to Congress that the status quo is not acceptable.”
Families are often forced to live apart, said Mary Beth Garcia, an attorney for the Dallas-Fort Worth Justice for Our Neighbors, an organization of the United Methodist Committee on Relief that provides free legal service to immigrants.
The March for America March 21, will urge President Obama and Congress to tackle comprehensive immigration reform this year. A UMNS photo courtesy of The March for America
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In one family she is working to help, the husband is a U.S. citizen, and his wife and two older children are undocumented. The couple’s two youngest children were born in the United States and are citizens. The husband filed a petition to get legal status for his wife and two oldest children.
Because the wife and two children had entered the United States without visas, they were not allowed to stay and had to return to Mexico to apply for visas.
“During this time, the parents decided to split the children up between them because they wanted the two oldest children to continue their education they had started in the United States,” Garcia explained. “The two youngest children are staying with their mother in Mexico.”
This is causing tremendous strain on the family, Garcia said. “The children are too young to really understand what is going on. All they know is that they are not living together as a family.”
Stafford said cases like this point to the critical need for immigration reform. “If we fail them, we fail ourselves and our Lord.”
*McMullan is the refugee and immigration coordinator for the United Methodist North Texas Annual (regional) Conference. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society published this article in their newsletter, Faith in Action.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.