UCC General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black will give the opening remarks at the ecumenical event, "The New Administration and Immigration: The National Scene and Ohio." The day-long conference will take place Monday, Feb. 18 at the Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio, and will focus on the current state of immigration in Ohio and throughout the United States.
"The United Church of Christ is involved in the fight for immigration reform both here in Ohio and throughout the country," said Black. "It is important to continue these conversations to remain educated about, and engaged with, an issue that affects more than 11 million of our undocumented brothers and sisters every day."
A panel of experts including Carol Temerson, chair of the immigration group at the United Universalist Church of Akron (Ohio); Dr. César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, law professor at Capital University; and Rep. Courtney Combs of the Ohio House of Representatives, will lead a discussion about the state of immigration in 2013. The event will also include lunch, a Q-and-A session, and a discussion titled "World Café: What is Our First Next Step?"
Event sponsors include Church World Service, Catholic Latino Ministry, Cleveland Faith Immigration, Community Refugee Immigrations Services, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Ohio Council of Churches, Unitarian Universalist Association – Ohio Meadville District, DREAM Activists Ohio, Ohio Action Circle Episcopal Church, and Central Ohio Immigrant Justice, among others.
"We need to continue to look forward toward comprehensive immigration reform that will improve the lives of many, and make our great country a more welcoming, accepting place," said Black. "Now is the time for the faith community to make its voice heard."
President Obama has vowed to make immigration a priority in his second term, and praised the recent bipartisan efforts toward reform in his State of the Union address Tuesday. Senators gathered for the first hearing on the proposed immigration reform legislation the next day, and said the president's decision to give members of both parties a say in the matter was a strategic choice that could pay off as negotiations continue. While there are some minor differences, the plans presented by President Obama and by the group of bipartisan senators align closely with one another.
While UCC immigration advocates applaud the bipartisan efforts and welcome the momentum, many are discouraged by the call from both parties to increase border security and see it as an unnecessary step toward making immigration reform a reality.
"We are not content with citizenship being 'contingent' on more security provisions," said the Rev. John Dorhauer, minister of the UCC's Southwest Conference. "In Arizona, we have seen the tragic deaths of hopeful migrants in our desert lands due to constant heightened border enforcement. We will continue to press forward to create a pathway to citizenship for those who cross with high hopes and noble aspirations, but we will advocate against increased border enforcement."
The United Church of Christ has a long history of affirming the dignity of immigrants and working for comprehensive U.S. immigration policy. Since 1995, General Synod – the main deliberative body of the UCC – has repeatedly called for a fair and human approach to U.S. immigration policy that protects families and respects the humanity of our immigrant brothers and sisters.