Immigration Task Force Seeks Stories

July 21, 2011

By Alice Ann Glenn

In the California-Nevada Annual Conference our borders are airports, sea ports, bus depots, and train stations – not international borders. That has not left us immune to serious immigration issues with which we as United Methodists need to deal on a regular basis, however. In this Conference we have had a major portion of an ethnic congregation removed, individuals deported, and others left struggling to get papers or needing to leave the country for a period of time (which disrupts their family and work), or being asked to prove they have papers in situations where there is not a legal requirement that they do so. This destroys community, separates families, severs friendships, and causes pain that can hardly be put into words.
         
The Conference Immigration Task Force is working on developing a curriculum to be used in local churches to study the complex issues of our current immigration system. As the writer for this project, I need to have first-hand stories of how immigrants to this country have suffered under ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services; ICE's predecessor) – and how disruptive current laws and policies are to families, friends, neighbors, businesses, and faith communities.
         
We also are looking for stories of congregations that have "stepped up" and are being active in meeting the challenges immigrants face as undocumented persons, including their challenges with ICE, obtaining papers, and needing to appear in court – and/or situations in which American-born citizens are being harassed because they are assumed to be either immigrants or undocumented.
 
The challenges that individuals have faced may go back to stories handed down from the Chinese Exclusion Act, or the living history of the Japanese Internment Act, or Gulf War I, or yesterday's disappearance of Sait's parents and the need for relatives to take him in.
 
We want ALL names to be changed, so that the innocent are protected. We are hoping that persons will be given a name from their culture as an alias, and that the racial/ethnic group of the individual, family, or couple – or from which country they have immigrated – is very clear in the story.
         
Pastors have stories of congregation members. Members have stories of people with whom they work every day. We are interested in the stories of those who are undocumented, those who are trying to get documented, and those who have been deported. However, we do want all the stories to be experiences from within the borders of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, as our issues are not the same as those of other areas.
         
The hope of the Immigration Task Force is to have stories from as many countries and/or racial/ethnic groups as represent our language ministries in this Conference. We are hoping that pastors and laity will write the stories and send them to me – however, they can be dictated to me if needed. If it is better for me to meet with individuals and hear their stories and take notes, that also is a possibility.
         
Please contact me at AAGlenn@aol.com or 831.372.5137.
 
The Immigration Task Force looks forward to receiving the stories from your congregation!