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Immigrant Rights

For our older posts on immigrant rights:

Here’s help in following immigration legislation in various states    [6-28-11]

The Office of Immigration Issues of the PC(USA) sent this helpful note (and links to more!) on June 22, 2011:

There has been recent activity at the state level on immigration legislation. South Carolina passed legislation yesterday and a couple weeks ago Alabama adopted a bill that would require law enforcement to check the immigration status of a person if there was reasonable suspicion that person was in the US without authorization. The Alabama bill also presents issues for those who assist people who are undocumented. Our office is currently reviewing the South Carolina legislation. Here is an article from a local paper in SC:

As part of our efforts to keep Presbyterians informed about immigration issues in their area, we’ve created a spreadsheet that tracks state immigration legislation along with links to the text of the bill, voting history, and a recent local article on the legislation. It is posted on our website. The spreadsheet is updated every few weeks so if you’re relying on the information in the spreadsheet for anything, please call our office for the most up-to-date information as we may be a little behind posting changes. I can tell you that we’ve not updated the SC legislation. Follow this link to learn more:

Thanks for your time and your ministry.



Melissa Davis Gee
Advocacy and Legal Services Coordinator
Office of Immigration Issues
Presbyterian Church (USA)
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Phone: 502-569-5007
Fax: 502-569-8822

For our earlier posts on immigration concerns >>

Big Tent to stay in Indianapolis

Location finalized after examination of new Indiana immigration bill   [5-2-11]

from the Office of the General Assembly

The Big Tent – the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s biennial celebration of ministry and mission – will be pitched in Indianapolis June 30-July 2.

The decision to keep the Big Tent event in Indianapolis this summer was made after church leaders examined the final text of the newly passed Indiana immigration bill (Senate Bill 590) and confirmed that it does not contain elements that would have necessitated a change of venue.

More >>

Visit the Big Tent website for more information and to register.

Big Tent location up in the air

Proposed Indiana immigration law might mean event has to relocate; decision will be made May 2    [4-9-11]

by Bethany Furkin, Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Despite concerns about a proposed Indiana immigration law that may necessitate a change of location, plans are underway for this year’s Big Tent event, scheduled to meet June 30-July 2 in Indianapolis.

Organizers are urging Presbyterians to register for the event but to delay making travel arrangements until May 2, when the final location will be determined.

The Indiana legislature is considering Senate Bill 590, which many describe as “Arizona-type” legislation. The bill would allow law enforcement officials to check a person’s immigration status in some situations, make the harboring or transport of an undocumented immigrant illegal in some cases and require that all communication by the state and its employees be in English.

Last year’s 219th General Assembly voted to “refrain from holding national meetings at hotels in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color or Hispanic ancestry might subject them to harassment due to legislation similar to Arizona Law SB 1070/HB2162.”

“We really see it as an issue of hospitality,” said Kerry Rice, manager of General Assembly Meeting Services. He added that the church can’t hold an event where its guests will be subject to possible detention or harassment. “We need to stand in solidarity.”

The rest of the story >>

For a news release from the General Assembly Mission Council, with links to helpful background material >>

Arizona high school students offer insight into “the illegal immigration battle”     [2-9-11]

Bordering an affluent neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona, one can leave the campus of Arcadia High School and drive up nearby Camelback Mountain to catch a breathtaking view of the Phoenix Valley. Or, in three hours one can be standing on the border between Mexico and Arizona. Arizona, and its capital city, Phoenix, are on the front lines of the illegal immigration battle.

The Border follows 6 Arcadia High students as they try to separate fact from fiction and get to the bottom of the illegal immigration debate. The kids interview Russell Pearce, co-author of Arizona’s controversial SB-1070, controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, advocates for the Dream Act, and everyday people who are affected by the issue.

Here’s a trailer with some glimpses of the film >>

As far as we know, the film itself has not yet been posted online, but we’ll let you know as soon as we can.

Thanks to PVJ coordinating team member Lorelei Hillman

Speak up for immigration reform that will be fair to same-sex couples!    [2-2-2011]

At this crucial time in the immigration reform debate, the group Immigration Equality is urging people of faith and others to join in contacting members of Congress and the President, asking them to support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).

Here is more of their communication to us, slightly edited:

The UAFA has been endorsed at the national level by dozens of immigration, labor, civil rights, professional, business, and faith groups, including the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, More Light Presbyterians, Lutherans Concerned, Catholics for Equality, and many others.  [Your WebWeaver adds:  Presbyterian Voices for Justice has also joined in endorsing one of these letters.]

As you may be aware, if an American citizen (or legal permanent resident) falls in love with someone from another country, they may petition for an immigration benefit to bring that person to the US (green card).

If you happen to be gay or lesbian, you are denied this basic right.

Even if you get married, or enter into a civil union or domestic partnership in any of the States or other nations that allow this, you still cannot bring your partner to the US.

23 other nations (most of our closest allies, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, Western Europe and South Africa) allow their gay and lesbian citizens to sponsor their foreign-born partners, and most of these nations do not have marriage equality.

There is a bill about to be introduced in this Congress called the Uniting American Families Act that would end this discrimination. It would allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their partner (or spouse), in the same manner that straight couples can, along with the same penalties for fraud. This is one of the most popular immigration bills in the US House of Representatives in the last Congress, with 135 co-sponsors.


For more from the Immigration Equality group >>


To send messages to Congress >>

Observe International Migrants Day – December 18

This comes to us from the Rev. Tony Aja, Coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Ministries for Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, on behalf of Presbyterians for Just Immigration.    [12-14-10]

December 18th has been designated "International Migrants Day" by the United Nations. Click here for a liturgy and other resources created for this day by the Rev. Dr. Claudio Carvalhaes, professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, at the request of the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s United Nations Office. Eventually this will be posted in their website this week. 

However Claudio has graciously shared it with me and others just now. We ask that you would consider using all or parts of this wonderful resource in a worship service soon to bring to the forefront the plight of those who are being displaced from their homes by political, religious or other type of persecution. Others simply migrate to feed their families and improve their lives. 

During this Christmas Season we are reminded of the Holy Family's own need to seek refuge in a foreign land... 



Amnesty International analyzes the current form of the DREAM Act.   [12-6-10]

The DREAM Act, a bill that would help thousands of committed students and military officers who are alien minors to legalize their status, was introduced in the Senate last week by Senator Durbin (D-IL). A House companion bill is expected any day. However, for many DREAM supporters the release of the long-awaited Senate bill last week dampened the spirits of some and outraged others.

Amnesty International provides a helpful analysis of the bill, with its concerns and the reasons for supporting it in spite of its weaknesses.

More >>

Thanks to Jonathan Nelson, Elder, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, NYC

Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons sends letter to Congress supporting DREAM Act

Legislation would allow immigrant high school graduates to go to college, work or join U.S. military    [10-4-10]

Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

Louisville, September 30, 2010 — The Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, has written a letter to members of the U.S. Congress urging them to pass the DREAM Act (S.729/H.R.1751).

The legislation would allow the children of illegal immigrants to continue their education, work or join the U.S. military if they graduate from high school.

"The denomination is extremely concerned over the fate of millions of young people who have lived in the United States for most of their childhood, yet have no right to legal work authorization or higher education," Parsons wrote in his Sept. 27 letter.

More, including the full text of Parsons’ letter >>

Court overturns border volunteer's 'littering' conviction

Appeals court says drinking water set out for migrants is not 'garbage'

Jerry L. Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service reports:

The United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of a humanitarian activist for "littering" near the U.S. border with Mexico, stating that the clean bottles of drinking water placed on known migrant trails could not be considered "garbage" due to their intended purpose of preventing death-by-exposure.

Dan Millis, a volunteer with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-backed faith-based organization No More Deaths, had been convicted in September 2008 for placing bottles of drinking water in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) in the middle of one of the most-traveled corridors for migrants along the Arizona border.    The rest of the story >>

See also the The New York Times report of Sept. 27

On immigrants:

The tried and true bugaboo

by Berry Craig   [8-11-10]

Since the end of the Cold War, which deprived them of the Red Menace, right-wing Republicans have been looking for a replacement bogeyman to frighten people into voting for them.

They tried humanism, then gay rights. Both were scary enough for Christians of the homophobic, Jesus-loves-me-but-He-can’t-stand you persuasion. But most Americans didn’t seem to get too worked up over the humanist-gay “threat” to the republic.

Finally, the GOP has gone back in history and found the tried and true bugaboo: immigrants.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is suggesting repeal of part of the 14th Amendment that makes anybody born in the USA a citizen.

Graham says his targets are undocumented immigrants and their offspring. He means Latinos, of course. I’d bet the senator is cool with automatic citizenship for the babes of paperless white Canadians born on this side of the border.

Anyway, Graham’s boss, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, wants hearings on the amendment’s birthright provision. Other Republicans are hopping on the demagogue bandwagon.

Meanwhile, just about everybody agrees that our immigration laws need reforming.

But the hue and cry over the 14th Amendment is pure electioneering. It is part of a grander GOP strategy. The Republicans are pandering to a rising tide of anti-immigrant anger among white folks who hate it that Mr. and Mrs. USA are looking a lot less like Ward and June Cleaver.

Anyway, prejudice against immigrants has been around for a long time.

It took off in the late 1840s when large numbers of German and Irish Catholics moved to America. Many many native-born Protestants wigged out. In the 1850s, fanatical Protestant white men of British stock formed the American or “Know Nothing” Party. They claimed the Catholic newcomers were in cahoots with the pope – whom some of the xenophobes took for the anti-Christ – to wrest America from the “true Christians.”

After the Civil War, many Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish people arrived from eastern and southern Europe. Buddhist Chinese and Japanese also made America their new home.

Nativism came roaring back. Many “Old Immigrant” Anglo-Saxon Protestants loathed and feared the “New Immigrants,” describing them as the “scum of Europe” and the “yellow peril.”

“Refuse the refuse!” became the anti-immigrant cry. This was about the time the Statue of Liberty went up in New York harbor inviting the world’s “tired,” “poor” and “huddled masses” to join us.

No matter, vote-hungry politicians – Republicans and Democrats – eagerly embraced the xenophobia. Congress stopped immigration from Asia and sharply curbed the number of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.

Anti-immigrant bigotry – bigotry, period – grew anew after the 20th century turned. The Ku Klux Klan re-emerged in the 1920s, claiming it stood for "100 Percent Americanism."

The Klan stuck foreigners – again mostly southern and Eastern European Catholics, Jews and members of Orthodox churches – just below African Americans on its expanded hate list. At the same time, many politicians of both big parties ranted against the "foreign wretches," claiming they were "polluting" the country and helping spread Soviet-style communism to America.

Of course, the Republicans – and even the Tea Baggers – would have us belief that their beef is with “illegal” immigrants. But they're not fooling anybody. Most of these neo-Know Nothings are white people who have a problem with Latinos north of the border, period.

Check out signs at Tea Party rallies: “SEAL OUR BORDERS,” “Go Trash Your Father’s Crappy Country. Don’t Trash My Father’s Great Country! God Bless America/Damn Obama” and “America Help Us Boycott Mexico/Respect Are-[sic]Country/Speak English,” and "Make English America's offical [sic] Language" are pretty typical (So are the misspellings.).

Better yet go to and watch the videos.

It's funny that the Republicans and the GOP-tilting Tea Party white folks who yell and wave “I want my country back!” signs don't see the irony in their protestations. Illegal immigrants – some of the Tea Bagger ancestors – started this country. The Indians didn’t invite the Europeans over.

And I wonder what the Tea Baggers would think if Native Americans started showing up at Tea Party rallies with their own “I want my country back!” signs.

The author:

Berry Craig is an associate professor of history at Paducah, Ky., Community College and a freelance writer.

Xenophobia: Fear-Mongering for American Votes

Editorial, New York Times, August 5, 2010   [posted here 8-6-10]

Leading Republicans have gotten chilly toward the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people born in the United States. Senators Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions and Jon Kyl have been suggesting that the country should take a look at it, re-examine it, think it over, hold hearings. They seem worried that maybe we got something wrong nearly 150 years ago, after fighting the Civil War, freeing enslaved Africans and declaring that they and their descendants were not property or partial persons, but free and full Americans.

As statements of core values go, the 14th Amendment is a keeper. It decreed, belatedly, that citizenship is not a question of race, color, beliefs, wealth, political status or bloodline. It cannot fall prey to political whims or debates over who is worthy to be an American. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” it says, “are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” ...

The editorial concludes:

The United States has never had a neat, painless way to add newcomers. But our most shameful moments have involved the exclusion of groups, often those that do our hardest labor: Indians, African-Americans, Chinese, Irish, Italians, Catholics, Jews, Poles, Japanese-Americans, Hispanics. America has stood proudest when it dared to stretch the definition of who “we” are.

As a result, this is still the most welcoming country for immigrants. A few politicians chumming for votes in an off-year election cannot be allowed to destroy that.

The full editorial >>

Thanks to Jonathan Nelson, Elder Fifth Ave Presbyterian Church NYC

More on immigration concerns >>

Community groups continue protests against SB1070, and all immigration police collaboration

Media advisory from National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
July 29, 2010

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton's ruling yesterday temporarily halting select provisions of Arizona 's SB1070 is a good start towards defeating the controversial legislation. Unfortunately, the ruling leaves intact the status quo of anti-immigrant racial profiling and immigration-police collaboration, setting the groundwork for heightened harassment and arrests of immigrants.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton's ruling yesterday temporarily halting select provisions of Arizona 's SB1070 is a good start towards defeating the controversial legislation. Unfortunately, the ruling leaves intact the status quo of anti-immigrant racial profiling and immigration-police collaboration, setting the groundwork for heightened harassment and arrests of immigrants.

Many mobilizations in cities around the country to protest SB1070 on the date of its enactment, July 29, are proceeding as planned. Groups in Arizona are carrying out actions of civil resistance to stop theSB1070 from going forward and, in Phoenix , chained themselves to the doors of the county jail run by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Judge Temporarily Blocks Provisions of SB1070

The ruling let stand a section on day laborers in which police will be allowed to charge persons with "harboring and transporting" immigrants who have no valid immigration documents.

The ruling suspended implementation of several widely-criticized sections of SB1070, including:

bullet Requiring an officer to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there's reasonable suspicion about their status.
bullet Criminalizing the failure to apply for or carry "alien-registration papers."
bullet Criminalizing undocumented immigrants who solicit, apply for or perform work.
bullet Prohibiting the warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe they have committed a public offense that makes them deportable from the United States.

The remaining sections of SB1070, set to become law Thursday, July 29, continue criminalizing persons who "look" or "sound" immigrant, and Arizona police will be able to continue harassing and detaining people for immigration status.

Condemn SB1070, End All Immigration-Police Collaboration

As SB1070 now stands, immigrant families, workers and communities will be more vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation at the hands of hate groups and other unscrupulous police, landlords, businesses and employers. Additionally, the temporary halt of select provisions of SB1070 will embolden other states and localities to attempt passing copy-cat laws and ordinances.

NNIRR and its members are urging the Obama Administration to take action to stop all provisions of SB1070, and to end all immigration-police collaboration programs around the country. These programs help foster SB1070 and other similar state proposals.

Instead of expanding federal funding of immigration policing and border militarization, or allowing Arizona and other states to use federal stimulus monies on immigration policing, NNIRR will be pressing the Administration and Congress to invest in living wage job creation, expanding social, health and education services and programs that provide for community health and safety for all.

Key websites for information and connections to campaigns and work against SB-1070:

bullet Coalición de Derechos Humanos, Tucson, AZ
bullet Puente Movement Arizona, National Day Laborer Organizing Network ( Phoenix , AZ and LosAngeles , CA )
bullet Presente.Org
bullet Sound Strike

For a list of actions and media contacts for July 29, 2010, visit the NNIRR blog .

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
310 8th St. Ste. 303 | Oakland, CA 94607 l tel: 510.465.1984 | fa510.465.1885 
Abraham Jouneyed to a New Country – a new hymn on immigration    [7-20-10]

Some churches are planning to address the new Arizona anti-immigrant law this Sunday in their worship services, and might find it helpful to use a new hymn text by the Rev. Carolyn Gillette. Entitled “Abraham Journeyed to a Far Country,” the hymn relates to lectionary epistle texts used in August 15th and 29th as well. You are invited to share this with whoever might find it useful.

Abraham Journeyed to a New Country

        BUNESSAN D (“Morning Has Broken”)

Abraham journeyed to a new country;
Sarah went with him, journeying too.
Slaves down in Egypt fled Pharaoh’s army;
Ruth left the home and people she knew.

Mary and Joseph feared Herod’s order;
Soldiers were coming! They had to flee.
Taking young Jesus, they crossed the border;
So was our Lord a young refugee.

Some heard the promise—God’s hand would bless them!
Some fled from hunger, famine and pain.
Some left a place where others oppressed them;
All trusted God and started again.

Did they know hardship? Did they know danger?
Who shared a home or gave them some bread?
Who reached a hand to welcome the stranger?
Who saw their fear and gave hope instead?

God, our own families came here from far lands;
We have been strangers, “aliens” too.
May we reach out and offer a welcome
As we have all been welcomed by you.

Biblical references: Genesis 12, Ruth 1; Matthew 2:13-16, 10:40; 25:31-46; Hebrews 11, 13:2; Leviticus 19:18, 33-34
Tune: Gaelic melody
Text: Copyright © 2010 Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: See also

Permission for free use of this hymn is given to churches that support the Office on Immigration Issues of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Hymn Note for “Abraham Journeyed to a New Country”

Text: Throughout the Bible, we see stories of immigrants—people called to settle in new lands and begin new lives for a variety of reasons, people who trusted in God’s protection along the way. Abraham and Sarah heard God’s promise of a new land. Exodus is the story of God’s people being led from slavery to the freedom of the Promised Land. Later, Ruth went with Naomi, her mother-in-law, because her love of family led her to take risks and leave the home she knew for a new home. Jesus himself was a refugee in Egypt when his parents had to flee from Herod for his safety. Jesus taught that one of the greatest commandments is to love our neighbors; these neighbors include foreigners (Luke 10:25-37 with references to Leviticus 19:18, 33-34). He also taught that all people will be judged on their compassion for those in need and their welcome of strangers (Matthew 25:31-46). Today, people are immigrants for many of the same reasons that these biblical people were. The Church is called to follow the Bible’s teachings by welcoming and supporting immigrants today. Check out the web site of the Office on Immigration Issues of the Presbyterian Church (USA):

Tune: The hymn tune, Bunessan, is a traditional Gaelic melody that was originally associated with the 19th century Christmas carol, "Child in a Manger,” by Mary Macdonald. When the Gaelic hymn was translated into English, the melody was named after the small village on the Scottish island of Mull by the translator, Lachlan Macbean. Eleanor Farjeon wrote a new hymn to this tune, "Morning Has Broken," that was published in 1931.

Author: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Discipleship Resources/Upper Room Books, 2009) and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today's Worship (Geneva Press, 2000) and the co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. This congregation includes first generation immigrants from Brazil, England, Ghana, India, Scotland and South Africa, and provides space for a Ghanaian Presbyterian Fellowship. A complete list of Carolyn’s 160+ hymns can be found at

Arizona Presbyterians resist new immigration law

‘We need to act out of our faith and not out of fear’

Bethany Furkin of Presbyterian News Service reports:

LOUISVILLE — When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law in April, the state’s new immigration law was front page news. But for many Presbyterians who work on the Arizona/Mexico border, the law adds another complicated layer to the ministries that they’ve been involved in for years.

SB 1070, the broadest immigration law in the U.S. in decades, makes it a crime to not carry immigration documents. It also gives the police the power to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant. The bill, which goes into effect July 28, has been widely criticized as an invitation to racial profiling of Hispanics.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is one critic of the law, with three top leaders speaking out against it in a letter to Congress. In the letter, they call for comprehensive immigration reform and identify "bigotry, trauma, and fear" as effects of SB 1070.

The rest of the report >>

New resource recommended on growing collaboration between Immigration and local police

from Julia Thorne, Manager for Immigration Issues/Immigration Counsel, Presbyterian Church, USA   [6-3-10]

The National Immigration Law Center, The National Immigration Project and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network have put together a tool-kit to help local groups respond to the growing collaboration of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and local police.

Note: This is a fairly large PDF file – 72 pages.  But it looks good for anyone dealing with immigration issues today.

Crossing Borders: a photo essay

A border encounter between Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Mexico

Text and photos by Erin Dunigan; special to Presbyterian News Service

DOUGLAS, Ariz. — April 29, 2010 — The April 15-17 "Crossing Borders, Encountering God" conference here — co-sponsored by the Synods of the Sun and Southwest of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyteries of Noroeste and Israel of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico — brought together close to 200 participants from both churches for worship, workshops, teaching and learning from one another about the complex border relations between the two countries and churches.

One group of 11 participants engaged in a border encounter between Douglas and Agua Prieta on the Mexican side of the border.       

Click here for a powerful glimpse of the border experience >>

PC(USA) leaders press for immediate immigration reform

In wake of Arizona legislation, three say "broken immigration system" must be fixed

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — May 3, 2010 — Three top leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress insisting on the enactment of "comprehensive immigration reform this year."

In their April 29 letter, General Assembly Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons and General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director Linda Valentine said "we are keenly aware of the devastating effects our broken immigration system has on the lives of individuals, immigrant and non-immigrant families, and our communities."

Citing Leviticus 19:33-34, the three PC(USA) leaders said "as Christians we cannot stand by idly" while legislation such as the statute enacted last week by Arizona rips apart families and fails to offer “the most basic of humanitarian assistance."

The full text of the April 29 letter, signed by Reyes-Chow, Parsons and Valentine:

We write to express our conviction that you must enact comprehensive immigration reform this year. As people of faith and the leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we are keenly aware of the devastating effects our broken immigration system has on the lives of individuals, immigrant and non-immigrant families, and our communities. The bigotry, trauma, and fear that will result from the recent new law enacted in Arizona, SB 1070, which criminalizes those who are found "with" undocumented persons and requires law enforcement officers to identify and detain such persons, serves to underscore the necessity of action at the federal level.

Churches are on the front lines of caring for families being ripped apart by our broken immigration system. Traumatized citizen children left behind when parents are deported are but one example of the ways the current system destroys the fabric of community life, the integrity of healthy families, and the safety of individual persons. Church workers are also at the forefront of offering relief and services to immigrants, regardless of documentation status. Arizona's new law will put at risk those workers and others who are called simply to offer the most basic of humanitarian assistance. As Christians, we cannot stand by idly while our brothers and sisters die on our borders from exposure and thirst or languish in poorly equipped detention facilities, nor should we be required to do so by any law.

The new Arizona law also puts in jeopardy the public safety of immigrant communities, already wary of law enforcement for fear of deportation. Instead of new laws that induce fear and distrust, immigrants should be encouraged to participate with law enforcement, reporting crimes when they are victims and offering testimony when they are witnesses. Such trust and participation is impossible if local law enforcement is tasked with enforcement of federal immigration laws. SB 1070 will only foster more fear among immigrant communities, regardless of documentation status. Comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level is essential to override and counteract the damage done in Arizona by this new law.

In the Scriptures of Christians and Jews, we are commanded, "When an immigrant resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the immigrant. The immigrant who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the immigrant as yourself for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt" (Lev. 19:33-34). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) therefore supports congressional action in 2010 on comprehensive immigration reform that creates a process for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to earn their legal status; reduces waiting periods and upholds family unity; protects workers from exploitation; and provides efficient channels of entry for new migrant workers.

If you care about a more multicultural church, and one more welcoming to immigrants ...

May 16th is Multicultural Church/Immigration Sunday.

Join us on May 16 to celebrate Multicultural Church Sunday. Multicultural Church Sunday is a date on which congregations are invited to intentionally organize multicultural worship that seek to recognize, celebrate and incorporate a diverse membership in worship by using music, hymns, languages, arts and theological expressions that reflect the diverse makeup of the church’s community.

You might want to include something about Immigration or our New Immigrant brothers and sisters on that Sunday.

Learn more >>

Don't miss the 11th National Multicultural Church Conference

May 26-30, 2010
Pre-conferences May 26-27, 2010

For more information and to register >>

This year’s conference explores the theme, “H20: Deepening our Faith, Widening our Culture” focusing on the biblical vision of Ezekiel 47:1-12.

The conference seeks to explore “growing the Christ’s church deep and wide” in an increasingly diverse world. The conference is a place of differences. People with varying languages, cultures, ethnicities, theologies, genders, generations and backgrounds will come together to recognize the amazing potential of differences and, through affirming and celebrating those differences, create something new.

Religious leaders say new Arizona immigration law is unjust, dangerous and contrary to biblical teaching


From the National Council of Churches >>

New York, April 26, 2010 – The National Council of Churches and other religious organizations have sharply criticized Arizona's new immigration law as fundamentally unjust, dangerous to citizens and non-citizens alike, and a rejection of centuries-old biblical precepts of justice and neighborliness.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, who last week urged Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the legislation, reiterated the view of NCC member communions and Arizona religious leaders "that this legislation will not contribute to the reform of our nation's immigration system" and may stimulate similar anti-immigrant legislation throughout the country.

Governor Brewer signed the measure into law April 23.

The new law makes it a crime to fail to carry immigration documents and gives law enforcement authority to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

"In addition to the basic unjustness of the law, the fact that police now have vaguely defined but broad powers to stop anyone on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrants creates an unacceptable potential for wide-spread police harassment and creates a danger for citizens as well as non-citizens, " Kinnamon said.

The Rev. Dr. David Leslie, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and chair of the National Council of Churches/Church World Service Immigration Task Force, said, "The task force is committed to further mobilizing churches across the nation to oppose this type of legislation in other states, as well as work for the overturning of the legislation in Arizona. We will also continue our efforts to push forward real immigration reform based on the shared religious principles of true justice, dignity of all people and the rule of law that protects all people fairly."

In signing the bill, Governor Brewer said she would ensure that the police are trained to implement the law without violating citizen's rights. But she contended the law provides an indispensable tool for the police in a border state where illegal immigration is rife. She said racial profiling would not be tolerated, adding, “We have to trust our law enforcement.”

But Kinnamon expressed doubt the law could be enforced with that kind of care.

"This law will detract law enforcement from dealing with the criminal element, increase racial profiling, (and) cause even greater distress to families and society in general as large immigrant populations would be pushed even further into the shadows of our communities, " he said.

In addition, the law undermines "the efforts of institutions like the ones we serve to build communities of justice and peace for all people," Kinnamon said.

U.S.’s toughest immigration law is signed in Arizona

The New York Times reported on April 23, 2010, from Phoenix, Arizona:

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration bill in the country into law on Friday, aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants. The governor’s move unleashed immediate protests and reignited the divisive battle over immigration reform nationally.

Even before she signed the bill at a 4:30 p.m. news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it. Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members in the Rose Garden, he called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws — an overhaul that Congressional leaders signaled they were preparing to take up soon.

Saying the failure of officials in Washington to act on immigration would open the door to “irresponsibility by others,” he said the Arizona bill threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The rest of this report >>

Christian Science Monitor offers a more ho-hum perspective:

Arizona immigration bill: just the latest among state measures

The Arizona immigration bill, which the president called 'irresponsible' and 'misguided' on Friday, is one of many state initiatives introduced in the absence of strong national immigration reform.    More >>

And among some Arizonans, a call for “noncompliance” —

This note comes to us from the Rev. Trina Zelle, Interim Pastor at
University Presbyterian Church
, Phoenix, Arizona, and a former co-moderator of the Witherspoon Society:

A few local Presbyterians put together a website after last week's immigration conference, in anticipation of the governor signing SB 1070.  The address is  You can read our statement and sign on online or download the form. 
The comments that are coming in with the signatures are heartening.  We'll be putting up a comments page soon.
Many are protesting Arizona legislation requiring police crack-down and criminalization of “unauthorized” immigrants

Presbyterian “Crossing Borders” conference issues statement on immigration reform

By Erin Dunigan, Special to Presbyterian News Service

PHOENIX, Ariz. — April 22, 2010 — After two years of planning, the timing of the April 15-17 "Crossing Borders, Encountering God" conference seemed so perfect as to be providential.

"We are gathered here to have this conference around issues of immigration and borders and on the very day we gather we have these two events — ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids throughout Arizona and the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, mandating law enforcement to determine immigration status, going to the governor's desk," said the Rev. Mark Adams, director of Frontera de Cristo Ministries and a member of the conference planning team.

Co-sponsored by the Synods of the Sun and Southwest of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Synods of Noroeste and Israel of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico — the conference brought together close to 200 participants from both churches for worship, workshops, teaching and learning from one another about the complex border relations between the two countries and churches.

"It was the gravity of the 'non-welcome' for the stranger among us by our government on both a federal and a state level that hit us right in the face — it was that urgency which caused us to respond and to make a statement as a people of faith, gathered together to find out how we can respond to the issues of immigration in faithful ways," said Adams.

Speaking out against the ICE raids, Adams pointed out that "we are not responding against the government going after a criminal element — we support that."

It was the way in which the raids were carried out, Adams said, what can be construed as a public show, leaking the information to the press, and creating a spectacle — actions that conference participants worry will create fear in communities among both the documented and the undocumented.

"Instead of restoring order and a sense of safety, these raids bring fear and instability and erode the trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, creating a climate of fear," says the conference statement.

These raids happened at the same time as the Arizona senate bill was sent to the governor's desk for signature. Those who oppose SB 1070 say that it will mandate police to become immigration enforcers — an unfunded mandate that will make them determine immigration status without having training.

"The kairos moment of this conference happening on the very day that we have taken on a new level in our state and country because of the broken federal system — we as faith communities can’t stay quiet. We have to raise our voices," urged Adams. "We as people of faith felt like we needed to raise our voices to encourage all people of faith and conscience to say this is not who we want to be."

The conference statement says, "we celebrate the diversity of our nation and the contribution of immigrants and call for the end of the criminalization of individuals and the destabilization of our communities."

Adams noted that this raising of voices and the letter which came from it, is not anti-U.S. government. "We are trying to participate in the redemption of a broken system," said Adams. "Any time the powerful set laws in place that oppress the poor, the alien, the stranger — that is something that [people of faith] have to work to change."

Click here for a brief photo essay from the a border encounter between Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Mexico

This report is also posted on the PCUSA website >>

For a more complete report on the conference itself >>


The Latin America Working Group in Washington, DC, states:

If allowed to pass into law by Gov. Brewer, SB 1070 would effectively force police to engage in racial profiling, criminalize unauthorized migrants for 'trespassing' into Arizona, and permit anyone to sue local agencies if they believe that the law isn't being adequately enforced. Such policies are as sweeping as they are dangerous.

Whether you reside in Arizona or not, Governor Brewer needs to hear that institutionalizing racist and discriminatory policies is bad for all of Arizona's families. Tell her to veto SB1070!

More – with suggestions for action by Arizonans as well as the rest of us >>


Arizona's immigration bill is a social and racial sin

Jim Wallis, as an evangelical activist for justice, writes a very personal account of his visit to Arizona to join in protests against the anti-immigrant bill passed by the Arizona legislature.

He writes:

This proposed law is not only mean-spirited -- it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. We all want to live in a nation of laws, and the immigration system in the U.S. is so broken that is serving no one well. But enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. And enforcement of this law would force us to violate our Christian conscience, which we simply will not do. It makes it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona.

The full article >>

He also urges people to take action for immigration reform, through the Sojourners website >>

Along with health care reform, immigration reform hit the news -- and the streets -- last week

Here are a few of the important reports on a vitally important issue:

New National Poll: people of faith support immigration reform, approve of clergy speaking out

Large majorities of major religious groups support opportunity for citizenship

A new survey of U.S. citizens who are registered to vote by Public Religion Research Institute finds broad support across religious groups for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform and strong approval for clergy speaking out on the issue. As immigration reform efforts resume around the country, the survey provides timely data about American voters' attitudes on the issue and the influence of religion and values. The nationwide telephone survey of 1,201 American voters, along with two surveys of voters from Ohio (n=402) and Arkansas (n=402), was conducted March 5С11, 2010. The study was sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

“By a 2-to-1 margin, American voters strongly support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, and they want a solution that reflects strongly held values,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “More than 8-in-10 Americans – including overwhelming majorities of white mainline Protestants, Catholics, and white evangelicals – believe strongly that immigration reform should be guided by the values of protecting the dignity of every person and keeping families together as well as by such values as promoting national security and ensuring fairness to taxpayers.”

The survey identified a significant partisan values gap that informs different approaches to immigration. There is general agreement among Democratic, Independent, and Republican voters on values such as promoting national security, securing the border, and ensuring fairness to taxpayers. On the other hand, Democratic voters rated cultural-religious values — such as protecting the dignity of every person, keeping families together, the Golden Rule, and the biblical value of welcoming the stranger — higher than Republican voters by double digits. [Hmmm, thinks your WebWeaver.]

To read the full report >>

To read the topline questionnaire >>

To read the press release >>


“Need for immigration reform is now,” U.S. faith leaders tell White House and Congress

News release from Church World Service

WASHINGTON — March 25, 2010 — Building on the momentum of Sunday’s massive comprehensive immigration reform rally in Washington, the head of humanitarian agency Church World Service, CWS advocacy staff, and a diverse group of U.S. faith leaders met Monday [March 22] with representatives at the White House, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and staff of other lawmakers on Capitol Hill, to press for major immigration reform legislation this year.

It was an issue that gained major public and media attention over weekend -- despite the final fiery health care debate that was still roiling at that moment in the House.

President Obama made his support for immigration reform visible on the big screen in a video message to the thousands of activists on the National Mall on Sunday. He restated his “unwavering” commitment to achieving comprehensive immigration reform and pledged “to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year on this important issue.”

... CWS and its coalition partners are calling for fair, balanced and more humane policies that support family unity, reduce undocumented immigration, stop worker exploitation, and allowing undocumented immigrants to rectify and earn their legal status.

For the full report >>


Faith Leaders on Immigration: Peaceful, Powerful, and Prophetic

Another good report on the visits to Congress comes from Allison Johnson, the campaign coordinator of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. She cites Sen. Harry Reid, among others, as testifying to the impact the visits, as well as the demonstrations, had on legislators last week.


“A place to call home”

Ecumenical Advocacy Days calls for justice for immigrants, refugees, displaced people

Presbyterian News Service reported from Arlington, Va., on March 22:

The ninth annual gathering of Ecumenical Advocacy Days opened with an enthusiastic show of support for faith-based social justice work.

The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, asked the 700 participants [including about 100 Presbyterians] to raise their hands if they thought the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a better theologian than Glenn Beck. The conservative radio and TV show host recently encouraged his audience to leave their churches if they hear the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice.’

The event focused this year on the need for immigration reform, on which Kinnamon commented:  “This is not a call for tolerance. It is a call for hospitality.”

The full PNS report >>


Stop Texas from erasing Cesar Chavez and Hispanics from school books     [1-9-10]

This call for action comes from the United Farm Workers

We urgently need your help to stop the Texas state Board of Education from erasing Cesar Chavez and all Hispanic historical figures from public school text books. Since Texas is such a major textbook purchaser, such a move could have a nationwide impact.

This Wednesday, Jan. 13, the state board will take a preliminary vote to adopt new standards for social studies texts. These new standards would eliminate all Hispanics since the conquest of Mexico in the early 16th Century. photoCesar Chavez, arguably the most important Hispanic civil rights leader of the 20th Century, is among the historical figures to be eliminated. One of Lowe’s so called "experts" said that Chavez "lacks the stature…and contributions" and should not be "held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation." Also eliminated are a number of key Texas history makers such as Irma Rangel, the first Hispanic woman elected to the state Legislature.

Board members and their appointees have complained about an "over representation of minorities" in the current social studies standards. This is ironic as Hispanics will soon comprise the majority of all Texas public school students.

Please take a few moments right now to send board Chair Lowe an e-mail. Tell the TX State Board of Education not to allow a handful of ideological extremists to revise history by eliminating people of color. Please click here to act now.

For our older posts on immigrant rights:


Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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