More than 500 events raise awareness of unjust situation thwarting ambitions of young, undocumented immigrants brought to this country by their parents.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — United Methodists accounted for almost half of the observances of DREAM Sabbath across the United States this fall. The Interfaith Immigration Coalition reported more than 500 events to raise awareness of the unjust situation thwarting the ambitions of young, undocumented immigrants brought to this country by their parents. United Methodists held 250 of those events.
Tens of thousands of America's faithful from 45 states participated in DREAM Sabbath, which began in the middle of September and ran into the second week of October. Observances included worship services, prayer meetings, conferences, and educational events.
A diverse array of religious groups spanning the ideological and theological spectrum participated in DREAM Sabbaths, offering prayers in support of the DREAM Act to provide some undocumented youths a pathway to citizenship. These communities of faith lifted up the personal stories of young people in their own communities who would benefit from the legislation. Many DREAM Sabbath events featured undocumented young people as speakers.
DREAM Sabbath was organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition in partnership with the United We Dream Network, the grassroots movement of undocumented immigrant youths, and long-time DREAM Act sponsor, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
The DREAM Act would provide some undocumented immigrant students the opportunity to earn legal status if they came to the United States as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service.
"The hope of the DREAM Sabbath was to not only educate people of faith about the DREAM Act," explained Bill Mefford, director of Civil & Human Rights at the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society, "but to bring the human face of the youths affected to the people in the pews."
Mefford said many pastors reported their congregants gave affirmations of support after the DREAM Sabbath services. They said their congregants appreciated the opportunity to learn about the bipartisan bill that would provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented youths.
United Methodist Rapid Response teams, which are addressing reform of the U.S. immigration system in 38 Annual Conferences, were instrumental in the denomination's very significant role in the DREAM Sabbath, according to Mefford. He said the teams recruited congregations from expected and unexpected places alike. More than 60 services were held in Arizona, for example. Numerous services were held in South Carolina, and from Florida to the state of Washington, and points in between.
"Passionate persons from across the United States, as well as Puerto Rico and the Democratic Republic of Congo, shared their commitment to the DREAM Act – and congregations invited undocumented students to share their stories in church services, as well," Mefford said.
Despite this outpouring of support across the country, Mefford said major work still remains in seeking fair, humane reform of the U.S. immigration system. "We will present the breadth of DREAM Sabbath events from across the country to our elected officials to let them know people of faith, and especially United Methodists, care deeply about immigrants and their families," he said. "We will be working on this issue until it is resolved."
Last year, the DREAM (Development, Relief & Education for Alien Minors) Act passed in the House of Representatives and received a majority of the votes in the Senate, coming just five short of the supermajority required to prevent a filibuster.
The DREAM Sabbath involved leaders and congregations from every major U.S. faith tradition, including Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish, and Muslim. Sen. Durbin observed the DREAM Sabbath at several places in his home state.
"For the last 10 years [that] I have been working on the DREAM Act, there has been one constant: strong support from the faith community," Durbin said. "The DREAM Act is based on a fundamental moral principle that is shared by all the faith traditions: It is wrong to punish children for the actions of their parents."
Through the DREAM Sabbaths, congregations around the country put their faith into action and put a human face on the plight of undocumented students, according to Mefford, who said he hoped the events would mobilize support to pass the DREAM Act.
"United Methodists have participated in DREAM Sabbath services by the thousands," said Bishop Minerva Carcaño, who chairs rthe United Methodist Council of Bishops immigration committee. "Our churches and Wesley Foundations stand alongside DREAM Act students and call upon Congress to pass the DREAM Act."
Carcaño called passage of the act a moral cause. "We call upon Congress to take the moral and right first step to much needed humane immigration reform by passing the DREAM Act," she said.
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 for the United Nations in New York City.
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