With asylum under threat from Congress, UCC joins interfaith vigil, action in D.C.
The United Church of Christ joined with interfaith partners Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C., to call for protecting the U.S. asylum program, which is under threat from Congress amid a looming government shutdown deadline on Jan. 19.
The day began with a prayer vigil held at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill. UCC staff from the Office of Public Policy and Advocacy gathered with others from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC) to pray, share stories and raise the moral call for supporting and protecting asylum.
The national UCC, along with multiple local UCC congregations, recently signed an IIC letter to the Biden Administration, urging the president to reject the anti-asylum, anti-immigration proposals that are being considered as part of a supplemental aid package.
“Attempting to leverage the safety, freedom, and well-being of some of the world’s most vulnerable people for unrelated foreign policy objectives is a violation of our call to honor and uphold the inherent worth and dignity of every individual, no matter their country of origin or the circumstances they face,” the letter states.
The letter was delivered to the administration during the Jan. 9 day of action.
“Right now, a group of U.S. Senators are discussing which pieces of our asylum laws they would like to cut as a bargaining tool to reach an agreement on foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine,” the Rev. Noel Andersen — UCC’s minister for immigration justice and national field director for Church World Service’s organizing, policy and advocacy team — wrote in a recent “Getting to the Root” column. “The types of proposals being considered would re-work asylum as we know it, making it much more difficult for people to win their asylum case.”
‘We deserve to be heard’
The vigil was followed by a rally where multiple members of Congress spoke, and then by a lobby day where asylum seekers and allies met with lawmakers to urge protection of asylum in negotiations.
Asylum seekers and immigrants traveled from across the country to share their stories and detail how the extreme proposals to end asylum would endanger and threaten them.
One asylum seeker from Cameroon shared with those gathered that “my life, and thousands of families’ futures, will be determined by the choice legislatures will make in the next two weeks. … We deserve to be heard. We deserve to be treated with dignity.”
These stories reflect the reality faced by many asylum seekers — especially at the Mexico-U.S. border.
“I invite anyone who is interested in seeing what is really happening at our border to join any of the humanitarian groups that routinely visit the border to offer food and assistance to asylum seekers as they wait for Border Patrol agents to find them,” wrote the Rev. Randy Mayer, pastor of The Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Arizona, and a longtime humanitarian worker along the border, in a recent op-ed.
Church World Service also signed the IIC letter to the Biden Administration, and Andersen has consistently been uplifting the cause to protect asylum through UCC and CWS channels.
“Instead of putting billions of dollars more toward Border Patrol, we should fund a robust welcome infrastructure that would allow people’s cases to be adjudicated in a timely manner, provide necessary case management service and create speedy access work permits to fill the gaps in the current labor market shortage,” he wrote in his column. “We can also shore up additional channels for family reunification through encouraging the Administration to recapture hundreds of thousands of unused family visas.”
Church World Service recently issued an action alert urging Congress to “reject harmful anti-asylum restrictions, welcome refugees and support newcomers during funding negotiations,” which can be found here.
“If Mary and Joseph knocked on our door, we must be the ones to let them in and offer them refuge,” said Andersen. “Asylum is a human right, not a political bargaining chip.”
Jessica Quinn contributed to this story.
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