UCC leadership encourages immigration reform, blasts Ariz. law

UCC leadership encourages immigration reform, blasts Ariz. law

April 29, 2010
Written by Gregg Brekke

In a statement issued April 30, UCC General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black and Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries the Rev. Linda M. Jaramillo, called Arizona's new immigration legislation "nothing less than a modern day Jim Crow law."

Calling the work for immigrants rights the "contemporary civil rights struggle," the leaders pointed to the dehumanizing effect the law could have on Hispanic persons, especially as it relates to those who provide medical care, education, social, religious and humanitarian assistance to Latinos.

Randy Mayer, pastor of Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Ariz., speaks to Univision reporters following a press conference by religious leaders in oppositions to Arizona's SB 1070 immigration legislation.
Photo Scott Griessel

Last weekend, the Southwest Conference of the UCC penned a letter to President Obama and other officials, decrying the new legislation and promising political non-compliance and fiscal action should it be upheld, including moving the Conference's annual gathering out of Arizona.

The Rev. Randy J. Mayer, pastor of Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Ariz., pledged religious resistance to the law, saying, in part, "We will resist - our churches, sanctuaries and sacred spaces will continue to be open to all people - at all times. We will not be asking for papers at our doors."

Good Shepherd, a UCC congregation near migrant traffic routes in the south Arizonan desert, operates the "Samaritan Patrol" ministry that offers emergency medical assistance, nutrition and aid to migrants found wandering in the desert. Humanitarian guidelines regarding notification of authorities and transportation of injured migrants, established with Border Patrol and by regional judicial rulings, are in jeopardy under the new legislation.

Black and Jaramillo conclude their statement with hopes of national comprehensive immigration legislation, reminding congregations that this upcoming Sunday is Immigrants Rights Sunday and urging "our brothers and sisters in the United Church of Christ and our faith partners to resist hate, and insist that just immigration reform embodies our Christian understanding to love our neighbors."

The complete statement follows:

Be devoted to one another in sisterly and brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:10-12 from The Message

We have been following the events unfolding in Arizona with the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act," which addresses the treatment of persons suspected of being in the country without authorization. Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill, but she is not the only person who should be held responsible for it. It was passed by a majority of legislators, even if it was a slim majority.

This bill requires police to check the immigration status of any person they suspect is in the United States illegally. There are many problems with this bill. It dramatically expands police powers to stop, question and detain individuals for not having proper identification. This essentially guarantees racial profiling, criminalizes undocumented people and creates panic and fear among vulnerable communities.

SB 1070 also makes it illegal for anyone, including family, to be in the company of an undocumented person, to hire or solicit work from undocumented, and "transport, harbor or conceal" undocumented migrants. This also could be interpreted to include medical personnel, teachers, ministers, social and humanitarian aid workers.

The immigrant rights struggle is a contemporary civil rights struggle! This law is nothing less than a modern day Jim Crow law of the 19th and 20th centuries. The racial profiling of persons of color that is inherent in this law violates the rights of women, men and children, citizens and non-citizens alike. SB 1070 is no solution to any problem. It only makes matters worse. To remain silent is not an option for us as people of faith and residents of the United States.

There is an urgent need for national comprehensive immigration reform that is realistic, responsible, and fair. Arizona lawmakers are blaming the U.S. Congress for not taking action and have claimed that they had no choice. Arizona leaders cannot use Congressional inaction as an excuse for imposing such an inhumane and immoral law upon the people of Arizona. SB 1070 breaches trust between community and police, creates fear, and potentially erodes the economic fiber of the state.

We encourage meaningful and respectful engagement in the necessary debate on comprehensive immigration reform and we urge our brothers and sisters in the United Christ of Christ and our faith partners to resist hate, and insist that just immigration reform embodies our Christian understanding to love our neighbors. We call upon the President of the United States and members of Congress to enact comprehensive immigration legislation that protects the rights of all who reside in the United States.

This Sunday, May 2, we observe Immigrants Rights Sunday. May God help us do so with dignity and respect.

The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister
Justice and Witness Ministries

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