'Pass DREAM Act,' Urge UM Bishops, GBCS Chief Executive

July 21, 2011

Letter sent in support of citizenship process for undocumented students

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three United Methodist leaders sent a letter July 18 to the U.S. Senate subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees & Border Security urging them to pass the DREAM Act.
The bipartisan legislation, recently reintroduced by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in the Senate and Reps. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., in the House, would provide a process for undocumented students brought to the United States as children to become legal citizens.
The letter was signed by Bishops Minerva Carcaño (Phoenix Area) and Julius Trimble (Iowa), and Jim Winkler, chief executive of the General Board of Church & Society.
Some other faith leaders recently encouraged passage of an "altered" act that would limit full rights of DREAM students' citizenship. The altered act would eliminate the students' ability to petition for legal status for immediate family members, for example. 
"We believe it is immoral to create a permanent second class of citizens who do not have access to full citizenship, and we do not support calls for legislation that would do so," the United Methodists emphasized.
Their letter was sent to subcommittee chair, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and the subcommittee's ranking member, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
"For too many years the U.S. immigration system has kept hundreds of thousands of promising young people from pursuing their dreams, including higher levels of education," the United Methodists state. "For too long, these students who recognize the United States as their only home have been denied the opportunity to further contribute to the U.S. economy and society."
Carcaño chairs the Council of Bishops' immigration committee and heads an interagency immigration task force. Both Trimble and she have flown to the U.S. capital to meet with members of Congress, and have written letters in support of the DREAM Act.
Durbin has introduced the legislation to each Congressional session since 2001. The act, "Development, Relief & Education for Alien Minors (DREAM)," gives undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.
The United Methodist leaders point out that for the students who fulfill the DREAM Act's "rigorous eligibility requirements," it still could take up to 14 years to attain citizenship. They also will not have the right under current immigration laws to sponsor anyone beyond immediate family members.
"Adding the additional barrier preventing DREAM Act-eligible students from eventually reuniting with immediate family members is redundant, unnecessary and punitive," the letter from the United Methodist leaders declares.
The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board's primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations in New York City.
Read complete text of letter to Sens. Shumer and Cornyn.