United Church of Christ marches for comprehensive immigration reform
Written by Emily Schappacher
July 1, 2013

In a visible witness for compassionate comprehensive immigration reform, advocates from the United Church of Christ took to the streets of Long Beach, Calif., on Monday July 1,as the General Synod voted to adopt a resolution supporting immigration reform and the protection of the human rights of immigrants.

About 200 advocates for immigration reform marched through downtown Long Beach holding signs and singing songs. The group made stops outside of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the office of Congressman Alan Lowenthal, and Long Beach City Hall, as members of the media documented the activity.

"People are being marginalized for wanting what we have," said Sherry Villanueva, a participant from Monrovia, Calif. "I hope this [event] will wake people up."

At the office of Immigration Customs and Enforcement, faith leaders sprinkled holy water and called for the cleansing and transformation of ICE. At City Hall, clergy members washed the feet of immigrants impacted by harmful immigration policies.

Earlier during plenary, the General Synod of the UCC voted to adopt a resolution that calls on the denomination to support compassionate comprehensive immigration reform and the protection of the human rights of immigrants. The resolution had 97 percent approval out of 801 votes.

Immigration reform advocates march through downtown Long Beach.

"From the beginning of our work, it was clear that the committee members supported this resolution," said Barbara Ferguson Kamara, chair of the committee and delegate from the Central Atlantic Conference. "We had lively and informative discussion of the fact that we are all immigrant people from biblical times until now."

Two delegates from the Illinois Conference proposed an amendment to the resolution that would ensure that newly documented immigrants have the opportunity to enroll in health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act. No one spoke out in opposition to the amendment and it had 83 percent approval out of 787 votes.

While no one spoke out in opposition to the resolution, many delegates spoke out in support of it. The Rev. Felix C. Villanueva, conference minster of the Southern California Nevada Conference, said that there is no need for additional border fences and that the United States is "spending billions of dollars securing something that is already secure."

The Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minster of Justice and Witness Ministries, commended the work of the committee, and asked people to take action in support of immigration reform when they return home by calling and writing their congressional representatives and urging the House of Representatives to continue the work of the Senate and pass a fair and just bill.

"I appeal to you to do more than just pass this resolution," she said. "When it comes to immigration reform, we are not there yet and there will certainly be more work to do even if the House does pass [the legislation]."

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