Riding the wave of momentum around immigration reform, the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ is proposing a General Synod resolution calling for vigorous support of the issue. The resolution, which will be sent to members of Congress, encourages UCC congregations to educate, engage, and take action to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality in 2013.
"Those of us who have been fighting hard for meaningful immigration reform for a long time recognize that this was a rare opportunity for immigration reform to be put back on the table and for it to go father and deeper than ever before," said the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, UCC Southwest Conference minister. "For the UCC to be silent right now would make no sense whatsoever."
The resolution calls on UCC congregations to engage in educational work on immigration from a faith perspective, participate in border delegations, and work toward becoming Immigrant Welcoming Congregations. It also asks members to be actively involved in the legislative process through steps like getting involved with a local coalition, forming relationships with immigrants, joining advocacy delegations with local governments, and participating in activities like vigils, marches and interfaith services.
The UCC has been a long-time champion of immigration reform and of protecting the rights and dignity of the country's 11 million immigrants. But Dorhauer thinks the outpouring of support the Hispanic population showed for President Obama and the democratic platform during the 2012 elections spoke louder than anything before. It was a wakeup call for the Republican Party, he said, and many of its members now realize they need to shift their views on immigration. Dorhauer also thinks the UCC is uniquely positioned to fight for certain issues pertaining to immigration, like equal protection for immigrant same-sex couples.
"The UCC wants to make sure that immigration reform is written in such a way that is does not disadvantage partners of same-sex unions," he explains. "That is just one example of why it's important for the UCC perspective to be heard."
Increased border security is another issue that many UCC immigration advocates are speaking out against. Many are discouraged by the call from both parties to increase border security and see it as an unnecessary step toward true reform. Dorhauer said current data shows the border is more secure than it has ever been, and that violent crime there has decreased during the past five years. The "militarized" zone between the United States and Mexico has had a negative effect on the area's culture, and the wall has had a negative impact on the environment and wildlife, he adds. But more than anything, the security measures are being taken against people who mean no harm, and, like the UCC not sharing its voice on this issue, to Dorhauer, that doesn't really make any sense.
"Most who cross the border are poor, indigent, third-world refugees leaving their family behind to make the journey thousands of miles on foot with no money, but with a dream of America being a promised land," said Dorhauer. "To talk about protecting our border from drug wars and drug lords makes sense, but we have a one-size-fits-all approach to militarizing our border, even though most people crossing it are peaceable citizens wanting to make a living for their family. It is clear to me that talking about more measures is past the point of overkill."
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.