Welcoming the Migrant to the US (80637-C1-R9999)
Delete Resolutions 118, 119, 264, 265, 266, and 267 and incorporate into this resolution
The Historical Context
From the dawn of creation human beings have migrated across the earth. The history of the United States is a migration narrative of families and individuals seeking safety, economic betterment, and freedom of religious and cultural expression. The European conquest of North America led to great numbers of migrants 1 who moved for a number of reasons, including religious freedom, economic gain, and the expansion of European culture, religion and markets. European migrants understood their right to the new land as divinely ordained. The meeting of two distinct cultures resulted in the attempted extinction and subjugation of one by the other. The Europeans largely viewed the indigenous people as culturally, socially and spiritually inferior. Through violence, cultural diffusion, and the efforts of European migrants to Christianize and “civilize” indigenous peoples, the local tribes of indigenous people were eventually driven further west or simply killed off.
The established European settlements in North America
have continued to draw migrants from throughout the world, some of their own free will and some through force. For instance, the first shipload of Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. The transatlantic slave trade and the over 200 hundred year history of slavery in the United States was a massive forced migration that has defined race and economic relations to the present day. U.S. responses to im migration have historically been racially charged. Each new wave of immigrants has brought new fears of impending cultural destruction and, unfortunately, racial violence and exclusionary legislation against migrants.
The reasons for those who immigrated willingly are numerous and varied depending on the context, but what all immigrants share is the promise of what they believe lies in another land other than their own. While there is no single reason for migration, economic betterment is a recurring one. Migrants have traveled to North America because of the effects of globalization, dislocation, economic scarcity, persecution, among other reasons. Migrants would not have left their countries had they been given the opportunity to live in safety with the prospect to adequately meet their basic needs.
M Immigrants to North America who have come on their own accord have journeyed in waves or streams. Those who choose to immigrate make up only a small percentage in their home countries, those who do decide to sojourn to North America have done so largely in groups, or if individually, because of connections they have with those who have already traveled. M Immigration has never been a one way flow as immigrants have often returned to their home countries for short periods of time or for good.
The Myths of North American Immigration
One of the enduring myths which continue to skew current debates about
im migration is the belief that the earliest migrants to North America were fleeing their home countries solely for religious freedom. While this has a seed of truth, it has been greatly exaggerated in order to justify attitudes of condescension and anger towards the im migrants of today. Some of the earliest European migrants did migrate to North
America partly for religious freedom, but the hope for greater economic independence as well as the expansion of European culture and religion were also major factors.
Unfortunately, some of these migrants ironically suppressed the free expression of religion, especially by the indigenous people, once they arrived. Their efforts to evangelize the indigenous people were often masked by their true intention to Westernize and force cultural assimilation upon native peoples. Contextualization of the gospel to indigenous people was not thought possible and so forced Westernization was implemented as the missiological model. This reveals a theology skewed by nationalism, impotent to genuinely communicate God’s unconditional love, and which ultimately is able to make only better citizens of a nation or empire, rather than faithful followers of God.
Further, the forced migration of Africans and the adjoining suppression of their native religions and forced acceptance to Christianity left an indelible mark that is yet to be accounted for nor fully repented of. The acceptance of the enslavement and later marginalization of African-Americans has too often co-opted the mission of the Church into acquiescence to nationalistic agendas of U.S. expansion and cultural subjugation. The hegemony of white supremacy has largely negated efforts to achieve racial reconciliation and efforts to appropriately contextualize the gospel.
Another myth of the history of U.S.
im migration is that all who came in earlier waves of migration effectively assimilated, leaving their former culture behind and embracing an American culture. What is implied in this argument is that there is one “American” culture, based on a white, European model, and that culture is static and unchanging. As culture includes all that we learn that enables us to function, respond, and adapt to our environment, there is a necessary flexibility that is implicit in culture. The idea of asking migrants to deny one’s original culture and replace it with an entirely new culture ignores the ways in which cultures evolve and change.
What actually occurred, and what continues to occur today, is the idea of mutuality. Mutuality implies a necessary relationship of reciprocation between interdependent realities or groups of people where access to resources is shared. This translates into recognizing not only the presence of the values of another’s culture, but the needs for improvements in one’s own culture.
When acculturation to the dominant culture happens too quickly, it can actually have negative consequences as well. The trauma and pressure of migrating to a new country and new culture is often relieved through maintaining connections to one’s culture of origin. Preserving strong cultural and familial ties provide social controls and maintain traditional values and often prevent such negative consequences such as mental illness and social disintegration among new migrants. 2 It is most common that language acquisition and identification to the new country as one’s home takes place by the second generation.
The Biblical and Theological Context
Reflecting upon the Scriptures, we are reminded that United Methodists are a global church. In the United States, we may be descendents of economic immigrants or forced migrants, or we may have recently arrived in the U.S. We may have formal documents proving U.S. citizenship, or we may be undocumented. We may live in divided families where some family members have been deported, or we may live in constant fear of workplace raids or impending detention and deportation. Regardless of legal status or nationality, we are all connected through Christ to one another. Paul reminds us that when “one member suffers, all members suffer” as well (1 Corinthians 12:26). The solidarity we share through Christ eliminates the boundaries and barriers which exclude and isolate. Therefore, the sojourners we are called to love are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters; indeed, they are us.
Throughout Scripture the people of God are called to love sojourners in our midst, treating them “as the citizen among you” and loving them as we do ourselves (Leviticus 19:33-34). Love for the sojourner is birthed out of the shared experience the Israelites had as a people in sojourn searching for the Promised Land. The attitudes and actions God required of God’s people were to emanate from the reflection of their liberation from slavery by the hand of God. This reflection on their own sojourn bridges the detachment between the settled followers of God and the newly arriving sojourners and creates a bond of solidarity, reciprocation, and mutuality. As the people of God were liberated from oppression, they too were charged to be instruments of redemption in the lives of the most vulnerable in their midst – the sojourner (Exodus 22:21, 23:9; Leviticus 19:34;
Deuteronomy 10:19, 16:12, 24:18, 24:22).
In the New Testament Jesus’ life begins as an African refugee when he and his family flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s infanticide (Matthew 2:13-18). Jesus fully identifies with the sojourner to the point that to welcome the sojourner is to welcome Jesus himself (Matthew 25:35). Jesus teaches us to show special concern for the poor and oppressed who come to our land seeking survival and peace.
The identification of the people of God in the Old Testament and the Messiah in the New Testament with the sojourner is so clear and pervasive that the sojourner can be viewed as not only a subject of mercy but an example of faith. The sojourner in the Old Testament was implicitly an outsider entirely dependent on the goodness of those within the society. The sojourner had no rights or voice with which to speak on their own. So too are Christians dependent entirely on the grace and goodness of God (Ephesians 2:8As migrants depend on the voices of compassionate citizens to speak for them, so too Christians are in need of an advocate (1 John 2:1). Therefore, the sojourner is an illustration for what faith means and how it is to be lived out. Jesus continually manifests compassion for the vulnerable and the poor in his context regardless of restraining legal or religious norms or codes. Jesus does not advocate for social or political chaos, but he so consistently breaks social, ethnic, racial, moral and sexual barriers that his actions constitute a prophetic restructuring of social, political, and religious relationships. Jesus replaces a social order based on merit, nepotism, racism, classism, sexism, and exclusion with one based on love, grace, justice, inclusion, mercy, and egalitarianism. The broken immigration system in the United States and the xenophobic responses to migrants reflect the former social order. The calling of the people of God is to create a new immigration system that reflects Jesus’ beloved community.
The fear and anguish so many migrants in the United States live under are due to federal raids, indefinite detention, and deportations which tear apart families and create an atmosphere of panic. Millions of immigrants are denied legal entry to the U.S. due to quotas and race and class barriers, even as employers seek their labor and U.S. policies economic and political conditions that push them from their home. With the legal avenues closed, immigrants who come in order to support their families must l
o ive in the shadows and in intense exploitation and fear. In the face of these unjust laws and a system of terror instituted by the Department of Homeland Security, God’s people must resist complicity to injustice and provide sanctuary to the lives and families Jesus loves, identifies with, and incarnates himself among. Scripture also exemplifies sojourners as heralds or messengers bringing good news. This is seen in the stories of Abraham who welcomed three visitors and then was promised a child even though Sarah was past the age of bearing children (Genesis 18:-11). This is seen in the story of Rahab who hid the spies from Israel and whose family was ultimately spared (Joshua 2:1-16). This is seen in the story of the widow at Zarephath who gave Elijah her last meal and received food and ultimately healing for her dying son (1 Kings 17:7-24). This is seen in the story of the transformation of Zaccheus who, upon welcoming Jesus into his home, promised to share half his possessions with the poor and repay those he stole from four times the amount owed. As Jesus entered Zaccheus’ home he proclaimed that salvation had come into his house (Luke 19:1-10). All of these stories give evidence to the words of the writer of Hebrews who advises the listeners to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (13:2). God’s people are called to welcome the sojourner not only because of God’s commands to do so, but because God’s people need to hear the good news of the gospel incarnated in their stories and in their lives. Welcoming the sojourner is so vital to the expression of Christian faith that to engage in this form of hospitality is to participate in our own salvation.
There is theologically and historically an implied nature of mutuality in migration. Both the migrant and the native are meant to benefit from migration. Welcoming the migrant is not only an act of mission, it is an opportunity to receive God’s grace. The globalization of international economies and the continuing movement of migrants have created an increasingly diversified U.S. population and should be reflected in United Methodist congregations and national church leadership. As migrants continue to arrive to the United States they bring important values of family unity, education, and perseverance which benefit the United States. Western societies benefit from these values as well as those who hold them. In welcoming migrants from throughout the world United Methodists in the U.S. welcome the opportunity of seeing the diversity that only can be found in God’s Kingdom.
Therefore, The United Methodist Church understands that at the center of Christian faithfulness to Scripture is the call we have been given to love and welcome the sojourner. We call upon all United Methodist churches to welcome newly arriving
im migrants in their communities, to love them as we do ourselves, to treat them as one of our native-born, to see in them the presence of the incarnated Jesus, and to show hospitality to the migrants in our midst believing that through their presence we are receiving the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Current Context
Immigration to the United States has changed in the last twenty years largely because the world has changed due to the forces of globalization and urbanization. Globalization has lessened the geographical distance between the poor and affluent, but yet, it has also greatly exacerbated the chasm between those with access to resources and those denied that same access. Vast inequities between the global north and south are a continuing legacy of colonialism, which draw resources and people from the south to north. Racism has been central to colonialism, and continues to play a central role in a global hierarchy of power and wealth. Globalization has localized issues which used to be hidden or detached by geographical boundaries, but has not created forms of accountability or mediated the necessity of cross-cultural reconciliation between those victimized by international economic policies and those who benefit from them. Global media enable the poor of the global south to see the lifestyles of the affluent in the global north, while rarely seeing the intense poverty that also exists there. This creates tensions and a draw to attain that same lifestyle.
Although unregulated trade and investment have economically benefited some, many more have been sentenced to a lifetime of poverty and marginalization through the global marketplace. In poorer countries natural resources have been removed by transnational corporations which have no stake in the continuing welfare of the local people, the enhancement of their cultural traditions, or their ecological environment. The lack of these resources most often leads to a drastic reduction in jobs, wages, and labor protections. Public social benefits are eliminated and the nation sinks deeper into debt as it turns to such institutions as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, both controlled by nations of the Global North. 3 As the affluent North continues to expand its wealth, this expansion occurs at the expense of the impoverished South. Every region in the world is affected in some way by the global economic divide. Yet, while money and products easily flow across borders, the movement of people who have been forced to migrate because of intolerable economic conditions is increasingly restricted. The historical irony of this situation cannot be escaped. A nation of former European migrants who colonized, suppressed, or destroyed indigenous cultures to settle in North America and resisted foreign economic colonization, are now engaged in economic colonization
of their own on a global scale, – which often resulting s in cultural suppression or destruction – on a global scale .
When those, whose livelihoods have been eradicated in favor of corporate globalization, attempt to sojourn to North America to work and provide for their families, they receive a mixed message that is confusing and ultimately oppressive.
M Immigrants have moved into areas of the United States where there are economic opportunities that U.S. citizens have largely ignored. Employers often prefer undocumented workers in order to increase profit margins. Until all jobs provide a livable wage, regardless of legal status, employers will be able to pit U.S. citizens against undocumented workers in a downward spiral that undermines labor rights for all.
Because the U.S. immigration system has not kept up with the changing pace of
im migration and the concurrent economic needs of both migrants and the U.S. economy, the population of undocumented im migrants has grown dramatically. Yet, the growing population of undocumented im migrants has not been harmful to U.S. workers because for the most part, they are not competing for the same jobs. While the United States labor force is growing older and more educated, the need for unskilled workers remains strong.
The Migration Policy Institute reports that the economic necessities for repairing the immigration system are clear as they predict by 2030, immigrant workers will comprise between one-third and one-half of the U.S. labor force. 4 Testifying before the Senate Committee on Aging in 2003, then-Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan, called for increased
immigration numbers of migrants to sustain an aging labor force and a continued economic vacuum among low-skilled workers.
Although the economic necessity of migrant workers is clear, any immigration or economic system which calls for a perpetual class of second class workers cannot be supported by people of faith.
Imm Migrants are exploited for their labor and economic contribution to the United States, and are being intentionally marginalized, denied their rights to collectively bargain for livable wages and safe working conditions, and shut out of equal access to the social services of which they support through their difficult labor. Any reform of the immigration system must also allow for the full protections of all workers which includes equal access to gain legal status for all migrants.
Even though migrants have proven a tremendous benefit to the United States’ economy, migrants have been systematically excluded from receiving any benefits. Federal and state laws such as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 have denied undocumented
im migrants access to all social benefits except for emergency medical care, immunization programs, and disaster relief. Excluding access to health care needs promotes an increase in the demand on emergency rooms to provide that daily care or it forces migrants who are fearful to seek medical care to live in continued pain and suffering. The United States benefits from migrant labor, but migrants have been forced to live in the shadows, unable to fully contribute as well as gain access to U.S. economic, political, and social realms.
Immigration: A Human Rights Issue
Since 9/11 the debate surrounding immigration has been incorrectly framed as an issue about national security. While the United States enters into international trade agreements to permit a greater international commercial exchange and U.S. industries benefit from low-wage workers without protections, the United States has also poured millions of dollars into militarizing the border. Between 1986 and 2002 there was a dramatic increase in border patrol agents as the budget for border security increased tenfold, from $151 million to $1.6 billion. During this same time the number of hours spent patrolling the border increased 8 times. The cost of making an arrest rose from $300 to $1,700. 5
All of this emphasis on border security has not stemmed the flow of undocumented migration as immigrants desperately seek to find adequate jobs and reunite with their families. Between 1995 and 2004 more than 2,640 migrants have died crossing the border between the United States and Mexico, and since 2004 more than one migrant has died per day. 6 Militarizing the border does not effectively stem the flow of undocumented migrants and instead, creates an atmosphere of violence whereby migrants whose journey to find work to provide for their families too often ends in tragedy.
The inherent value of all
im migrants means that all of their civil liberties should be respected and maintained regardless of their legal status. Raids of workplaces, homes and other social places should cease and all migrants should be given due process and access to adequate legal representation. Due to these raids and the ensuing indefinite detentions and deportations that follow them, families have been ripped apart and the im migrant community has been forced to live in a constant state of fear. An over-emphasis on national security has led to irrational fears by the North American public and the erosion of civil liberties on the part of the U.S. government. As stated in the resolution, Refugees, Immigrants, and Visitors to the United States of America, (2004 Book of Resolutions, #119) “the tragic events of September 11, 2001, rather than helping U.S. citizens become more open and welcoming to the people who seek relief from economic and political pressures as well as from hunger and war in their countries, have blurred their vision and have created a distorted concept of national identity.” To refuse to welcome migrants to this country and to stand by in silence while families are separated, individual freedoms are ignored, and the im migrant community in the United States is demonized by members of Congress and the media, is complicity to sin.
A Call to Action
The United Methodist Church affirms the worth, dignity and inherent value and rights of
every person regardless of their nationality or legal status. United Methodist churches
throughout the United States are urged to build bridges with
im migrants in their local
communities, to learn from them, celebrate their presence in the United States and
recognize and appreciate the contributions in all areas of life that
im migrants bring. We
call upon all United Methodist churches to engage in the following:
- Advocate for legislation that will uphold the civil and human rights of all migrants in the United States, provide legal status for all undocumented migrants for those currently in the United States as well as for those arriving in the future.
- Begin English as a Second Language classes as a part of ministry to migrant communities and advocate for federal and state support of expanded ESL classes.
- Denounce and oppose the rise of xenophobic, racist, and violent reactions against migrants in the United States, and to support all efforts to build relationships between people of diverse ethnicities and cultures.
- Provide wherever possible pastoral care and crisis intervention to refugees and newly arrived migrants, identifying and responding compassionately to their spiritual, material, and legal needs.
- Work with civic and legal organizations to support migrant communities affected by harsh immigration laws and over-reaching national security measures.
- Support those churches that prayerfully choose to offer sanctuary to undocumented
im migrants facing deportation.
- Continue the work of the Immigration Task Force composed of staff from the general boards and agencies, representatives of the Council of Bishops, and members of caucuses and national plans that was created by the resolution, Opposition to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Resolution Act (2004 Book of Resolutions, #118).
Further, The United Methodist Church is urged to advocate for the comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system based on securing the human rights of all migrants. Any legislation to reform the U.S. immigration system must affirm the worth, dignity and inherent value and rights of migrants, and must also include:
- Full access to legal status for all undocumented migrants. Any pathway created for undocumented migrants should have minimal obstacles and those requirements should not be designed to preclude undocumented migrants from eligibility for legalization.
- Clearing the backlogs and reunifying families separated by migration or detainment. Family immigration has been the cornerstone for the U.S. immigration system for forty years and is how millions of migrants have come to the United States.
- An increase in the number of visas for short-term workers to come into the United States to work in a safe, legal, and orderly way. Access to legalization should be available for those who wish to remain permanently.
- The protections of all workers who come to stay for a certain period of time as well as for those who stay permanently. The right to bargain for higher wages, to protest against poor working conditions, and to preserve their human rights should be maintained by all workers, documented and undocumented alike.
- Elimination of privately-operated detention centers, which are not regulated by the federal or state governments. 7
- Elimination of indefinite detention and the expanding prison population, which also benefits privately-owned detention centers and prisons.
- Preservation of due process and access to courts and to adequate legal representation for all migrants regardless of legal status.
- Prevent local law enforcement from engaging in enforcing immigration law. When local law enforcement officials engage in immigration enforcement 1 For the purposes of this document, the term immigrant will refer to a person who lives permanently in a country not of his or her birth and who has migrated voluntarily. The term migrant refers to any person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country not of his or her birth, and who had migrated either voluntarily or involuntarily. (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Further, migrant incorporates the terms immigrant, refugee, and internally displaced persons.
im migrants are unwilling to report crimes and continue in situations where they are exploited, abused, and victimized. When local law enforcement officials enforce immigration law there is a greater chance for racial profiling to occur as well.
2 Alejandro Portes and Ruben Rumbaut. Immigrant America: A Portrait. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996, pp. 180-187.
3 Moe-Lobeda, Cynthia D. Healing a Broken World: Globalization and God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, p. 28.
4 B. Lindsay Lowell, Julia Gelatt & Jeanne Batalova, Immigrants and Labor Force Trends: The Future, Past, and Present. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, July 2006, p. 1.
5 Angela Junck and Christopher Punongbayan, Immigration Plan is Way Off the Mark. Applied Research Center, January 26, 2006.
6 Wayne Cornelius, Evaluating Enhanced US Border Enforcement. Migration Policy Institute ,May 2004.
7 In the 2004 Book of Resolutions, “Prison Industrial Complex,” it states that “Many states where private prisons are now operating have no laws regulating their operations (including health, safety, security, legal access for prisoners, and disciplinary policies). Many private prisons are under no obligation to ensure access to information about prisoners held in them or how they are classified, and often regard this as proprietary information.”