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General Assembly calls on U.S.
Denver, November 20, 2008 – The General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service has adopted a joint immigration reform resolution that calls on the federal government to, among other things, end mass indiscriminate immigration raids on places of employment.
The resolution also commits the NCC and CWS to establishing an ecumenical task force on immigration.
The two organizations, meeting at a shared annual conference, November 11-13 in Denver, committed themselves "to strive together for a society that treats immigrants, who are being threatened in this time, as fully deserving of all the civil and human rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution and international agreements," according to a resolution approved on November 12.
"As we witness the consequences of an outdated and ineffective immigration system, we are compelled to stand in solidarity with those impacted by our nation’s policies," the resolution said.
According to the NCC and Church World Service, "The current U.S. immigration process separates family members, many who have waited decades to be reunited, and hurts productivity as those wishing to work in this country also endure lengthy backlogs. Such a system leaves many facing the choice between feeding their children and crossing a border illegally. Reaching a point of desperation, many risk their lives to cross the desert, where hundreds of them die every year."
Citing biblical mandates to protect and shelter the stranger, along with U.S. churches' long-standing advocacy efforts and humanitarian and refugee resettlement work, the CWS and resolution calls on the federal government to protect the unity of immigrant families by making family reunification a priority, to "facilitate generous laws enabling immigration by individuals who seek to work the United States," and to ensure full protection of rights.
New immigration task force backed by state church councils
The new ecumenical task force of the National Council of Churches, Church World Service and state ecumenical bodies and councils of churches "brings together different efforts that are already happening in the life of the church and allows for greater coordination and effectiveness," said Jennifer Riggs, a long-time refugee and immigration advocate who serves as director of the Refugee and Immigration Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples), Indianapolis. Riggs is also secretary of the Church World Service Board of Directors and the CWS Immigration and Refugee Program Committee.
She noted that CWS has resettled refugees in the United States since the end of World War II, and that the NCC and state and local councils of churches along with CWS have advocated for immigration reform. The task force, she said, "brings these three streams together collectively."
Among other things, the task force will work "to formulate a cohesive, coordinated, theologically-based response from the Christian perspective about issues surrounding immigrants and immigration, and to foster effective communication between our churches, in our communities, and with business, governmental and international leaders."
Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America's Voice, a new communications campaign to win common-sense immigration reform, told the General Assembly delegates before the resolution's approval that illegal immigrants in the United States "are subject to the largest detention program the federal government runs.
"We have 4,000 people who were just ‘driving while brown’ being stopped and exported. It amounts to non-violent ethnic cleansing," said Sharry, former director of the National Immigration Forum.
Media pundits and publicity savvy politicians have convinced well-intentioned people that immigrants are dangerous, Sharry said, a trend that "doesn't speak well of us as a country.
"All you have to do is turn on the radio to hear the villainy: immigrants are criminals, they are 'them' out to take from 'you.' The result is the fear of mothers and fathers who leave their house every day thinking they might be arrested and never see their families again," he said There are 14,000 immigrant children who have lost their parents because of U.S. law enforcement."
Sharry told delegates that the issue of immigration reform is "one of the defining issues of our generation."
Immigration reform stuck in 1950s
"Our immigration policies are stuck in the 1950s," he said, "but we face a twenty-first century reality."
Immigration reform also was addressed at one of several General Assembly forums. CWS Associate for Operations Joseph Roberson reviewed U.S. Congressional efforts at immigration reform since 1986 and outlined what reforms the NCC and CWS are pressing for now.
Rev. Dr. James R. Ryan, Colorado Council of Churches Executive, shared a new Sunday school curriculum on immigration entitled “Who is My Neighbor?” (Available via www.cochurches.org – Publications and Curriculums) and the Colorado Interfaith Pledge on Immigration, a commitment to work “towards just, workable and humane immigration reform,” available for sign-on at www.coloradoimmigrant.org/pledge.
In addition, the CWS and NCC General Assembly honored Carol Young, Director of Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Inc., with an Award of Excellence for her 16-year ministry with refugees. Under her leadership, KRM has engaged a wide variety of churches in an ecumenical community of support for refugees being resettled to Louisville and Lexington, Ky.
For more information on the immigration and refugee advocacy and refugee resettlement work of Church World Service, see: http://www.churchworldservice.org/site/PageServer?pagename=action_what_assist_main
CWS Media Contacts: Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676,
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