The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you;
you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:
I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19, NRSV
The story of the United States is the story of immigration. The history of the United States is characterized by waves of ethnic groups arriving to these shores searching for security and prosperity. Each new wave of immigrants has brought with them hopes and dreams of a better life, as well as unique strengths and contributions to give to the country as a whole. These strengths and contributions have made the United States a richer and more diverse tapestry of cultures. Unfortunately, each new wave of immigrants has also encountered the sting of prejudice and racial hatred from those already here, but who had so quickly forgotten their immigrant heritage. The immigrant values of labor, family and hope have transformed the United States and continue to bring much needed change today.
There are an estimated 12,000,000 to 14,000,000 undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, with 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 of these immigrants being children. Approximately 450,000 undocumented immigrants come into the United States each year in search of a sustainable income. While there is general agreement that the immigration system is broken and outdated, the current debate centers on what to do with the population of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
A comprehensive approach to immigration reform seeks to understand why immigrants have come to the United States and recognizes the tremendous contributions they have given and will continue to give. Enforcement-only approaches to immigration reform are limited in their scope and take into account only the “breaking of the law” through illegally crossing the border. The enforcement-only approach does not seek to understand the context of why so many have crossed the U.S. northern and southern borders illegally. The General Board of Church and Society does not advocate for “open borders” or for “amnesty,” but rather, for a comprehensive approach that protects the rights of workers, reunifies families separated by long waits in the current immigration process, and for an earned pathway to citizenship for those who wish to remain in this country.
Biblical and Theological Context
“We believe that the resources of creation are God’s gift for all people. We believe that as people of God we need to be open to others and welcome especially the sojourners in our midst. The Unites States of America prides itself as being open to ethnic diversity. However, United States citizens have not always held to that ideal. While some people have been welcomed, others have remained in the outskirts of U.S. cultural core and fabric. Furthermore, the reality is that with time U.S. borders have been getting narrower and often a spirit of hostility and racism toward the sojourners in the U.S. – refugees, immigrants, and visitors – has grown to the point of rejection and discrimination; We therefore call The United Methodist Church; to call local churches to seek ways to welcome, assist, and empower the refugee, immigrant, visitors, and undocumented person in their neighborhood, and to denounce the persecution of the sojourner in the U.S. as prejudicial and racist; [and] to request the General Board of Church and Society to work for public policy that is hospitable to visitors in the United States in every step of entry and visit to the U.S.” (2004 Book of Resolutions, “Refugees, Immigrants, and Visitors to the United States of America,” ¶119)
Scripture references: Leviticus 19:33-34 and Matthew 25:37-38, 40
What GBCS is Doing
GBCS works with various coalitions on comprehensive immigration reform. The Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform is made up of business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, with some labor organizations, with immigrants, advocacy groups and with a number of faith groups.
GBCS is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that will provide a path to citizenship, protect workers, reunite families, restore the rule of law and enhance security.