The Time for Just and Humane Immigration Reform is Now

November 28, 2012

By Bill Mefford
Director of Civil and Human Rights
General Board of Church and Society

As followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot miss the greatest opportunity we have had in decades to impact the national debate in creating a more just humane immigration system. After the U.S. election, Senator John McCain stated emphatically that he agreed with the calls for comprehensive immigration reform. Though we may disagree about various issues, the time for just and humane immigration reform is now.
So let's talk first about what we must do, and what constitutes just and humane immigration reform.
What You Can Do
  • Organize! Join United Methodists in welcoming immigrants to your congregation and community and advocate for just and humane immigration reform. Many Conferences have a Rapid Response Team already set up. Sign up to connect with the leaders of that team.
  • Prepare! In the spring we will engage in a number of public witness events. Begin to let folks know by inviting members of your Sunday school classes, UMW circles, church leadership, JFON teams, Wesley Foundations, youth groups, immigrants' rights networks, ministerial alliances, and any other network.
  • TAKE ACTION! Find your Representative and Senators and call them today at 1.888.427.0480 and tell them, "As a United Methodist, I urge you to make passing just and humane immigration reform a priority." 
What is Just Immigration Reform?
Not only is it important to pass immigration reform, but it has to be the right kind of reform! Here is what we advocate for as United Methodists:
  1. Pass the DREAM Act with no delay! We need a robust and inclusive DREAM Act that would provide a pathway to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for individuals brought to the U.S. at age 16 or younger, who currently are no older than 35 years of age, and who have graduated from high school or earned a GED in the U.S.
  2. Reunite immigrant families. We need to reunite the thousands of immigrant families who have been separated by our broken immigration system. Families are the basic unit of strong communities and must be at the heart of any reform measures. Any reform that does not keep the family intact must be rejected.
  3. Pathway to citizenship. We need to provide a pathway to legal status and ultimately citizenship for all those who are undocumented. Any pathway must have reasonable requirements.
  4. Create a safe border. An end to further militarization of the border and costly enforcement policies, which damage local communities and tear apart families. We have been focused on enforcements for years now – it is time for real reform.
  5. Streamline the immigration process. We need to create a safe and orderly process for those wishing to work in the U.S. for short periods of time that continues to protect the rights of all workers, allowing workers to collectively bargain and protect against poor working conditions. When workers are strong, we all are strong!
  6. End Private Detention Centers. We need to eliminate the use of privately owned detention centers, which are not regulated at the state or federal level.
I am excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. But the proof is in the pudding, and we will not be content to settle for reform that is not really reform, and that does not fix the brokenness of the current system.
There is work to do – lots of work, in fact! But we are on the road to reform. Will you walk with me on the road? More importantly, will you recruit your churches and all of the networks you are a part of, to walk this road as well? It is the road with the possibility of a bright future, but there is no future if we do not do the hard and diligent walk ahead of us.
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.