Us Imigration Office by beautifulone


									MCC U.S. guide to immigration
Four pages of issue overview, biblical reflection, action steps and resources for further
study. Available in print from the Washington Office.

Biblical Reflections and Church Responses

Standing with Immigrants

Since its inception in 1920, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has responded to the
needs of emigrating peoples through material aid and spiritual support. As an agency of
the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches of North America, which began as
immigrant churches, MCC recognizes the special needs of immigrants.

Scripture teaches us that "when a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not
do [the stranger] wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native
among you, and you shall love [the stranger] as yourself; for you were strangers in the
land of Egypt . . ." (Leviticus 19:33,34). We believe that God calls us to be accepting of
immigrants, because we, too, are sojourners (Exodus 23:9, Deuteronomy 24:17,18). By
welcoming the stranger we have welcomed Jesus (Matthew 25:35). Because of God's
clear call, we believe we must respond to the plight of immigrants in the United States.

The recent implementation of the 1996 immigration and welfare reform laws brings our
attention to U.S. policy toward immigrants . . . Many of our brothers and sisters who
attend our churches are affected by the new laws . . . Communities are disrupted as the
U.S. government implements increasingly harsh and sometimes violent methods to
enforce laws and secure the U.S.-Mexico boarder.

In light of these actions against immigrants, we reject our government's mistreatment and
scapegoating of our immigrant brothers and sisters. At the same time, we recognize and
regret our silence on these issues which contribute to human rights violations of our
brothers and sisters. We feel the call to act on behalf of our immigrant brothers and
sisters who are in need, whether documented or undocumented, just as God calls the
Israelites to do in scripture.

While working to prevent the need for emigration . . . we recognize that many people
must still make the tough decision to leave their homes. We also acknowledge that since
the United States controls more resources than any other country, it is inevitable that
people will choose to immigrate here in search of financial stability. Because of our
abundant wealth, much is expected of us. We must be willing to stand with the
immigrants in our midst.

Immigration Policy in the Border Region

Immigration policy at the southern border is endangering the lives and liberties of
migrants who provide the labor upon which the U.S. economy depends. Enforcement in
border cities forces migration toward remote areas where water and shade are scarce. The
heat in these desert areas can be deadly . . .

The policy of attempting to close off the southern border has not addressed the root
causes of migration, and has caused further deterioration of human rights for
undocumented people and border residents. The Federal government must take the
opportunity to look at long-term solutions that will consider structural, economic, and
historic causes of migration.

The following responses may move toward de-escalating the tension and violence in
border communities:

   •   Recognize the international economic trends that increase poverty in Mexico and
       Central America and thus encourage immigration.
   •   Stop the escalation of agents and weapons along the border and design a more
       humane and relevant response to economic migration.
   •   Provide amnesty for current residents without documents and increase
       opportunities for legal immigration. This will meet U.S. employment needs
       without risking undocumented employees' legal rights.
   •   Free trade has created unrestricted movement of goods and capital but has not
       allowed the same freedom to workers, thereby putting workers' rights at risk.
       Given this reality, we question whether it is appropriate to criminalize the
       movement of people.
   •   Humanitarian gestures such as giving water, food or automobile rides for
       undocumented people should not be considered criminal activities. The three legal
       consequences for aiding migrants increase fear and suspicion among the residents
       of border communities.
   •   Create an independent forum for observing the human rights violations of migrant
       people by vigilantes and the Border Patrol.

Excerpted from MCC U.S. Executive Committee statement, "Standing With Immigrants"
(September 19, 1998), and the MCC U.S. Board's "Statement on INS policy in the Border
Region" (July 8, 2000).

When Does Obeying God Call for Disobeying Governing Authorities?

A Biblical Reflection

The Bible challenges us to accept (I Peter 2:13), pray for (I Timothy 2:1) and be subject
to (Romans 13:1) governing authorities.

But there are also many Bible stories where God's people disobeyed the governing
authorities in order to faithfully obey God.
   •   Shiphrah and Puah, Hebrew midwives, risked their lives by refusing Pharaoh's
       order to kill all the Hebrew baby boys. God blessed them for their faithfulness
       (Exodus 1:15-22).
   •   Three youth -- Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego -- were thrown into a fiery
       furnace for disobeying the king's order to bow down and worship his 90-foot
       golden statue (Daniel 3).
   •   Daniel was thrown into a lion's den when he continued praying to God even after
       King Darius ordered his subjects to pray only to the king (Daniel 6).
   •   Esther broke the law by appearing before King Ahasuerus in order to plead for the
       safety of the Hebrew people (Esther 4-8).
   •   The Apostles declared, "We must obey God rather than any human authority,"
       when the Council ordered them to stop speaking about Jesus (Acts 5:29).

Principles. How do we reconcile these stories of "civil disobedience" with the biblical
command to be subject to governing authorities? What principles might we glean as we
read all these texts together?

   •   The norm is to obey the law. Breaking the law is not something to be taken
       lightly. Paul writes that the government's authority comes from God and,
       therefore, "whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed" (Romans
       13:2). The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective says, "governing
       authorities . . . have been instituted by God for maintaining order." While God
       ordains the institution of government, God does not ordain specific governments.
   •   Sometimes governing authorities overstep their role. God gives governing
       authorities the mandate to uphold good and punish bad conduct. But sometimes
       governing authorities abuse their role. The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite
       Perspective states, "Governing authorities tend to demand total allegiance. They
       then become idolatrous and rebellious against the will of God." Pharaoh exceeded
       his God-given authority when he ordered Hebrew babies killed (Exodus 1:16).
       King Nebuchadnezzar overstepped his authority when he required everyone to
       worship his golden statute (Daniel 3:6,15). The Council surpassed its jurisdiction
       by demanding the Apostles "not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus"
       (Acts 4:18).
   •   Sometimes obeying God may require us to disobey the law. Christians must make
       prayerful choices about breaking laws that:
           o call us to harm others (Hebrew midwives).
           o block us from efforts to protect life (Esther).
           o prevent us from worshiping only God or witnessing to God's love
                (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Daniel, the Apostles).

Anabaptist Applications. Some Anabaptists have chosen not to obey certain U.S. laws
that are inconsistent with these principles or are otherwise contrary to Jesus' teachings.

For example, even before the law made provision for conscientious objectors to do
alternative service, many Anabaptists refused to serve in the military. Today, some
Anabaptist youth choose not to register with Selective Service because they feel that even
this is cooperating with the military system. Others choose not to pay the military portion
of their tax. Some Anabaptists have chosen to house or hire undocumented immigrants
even though it is not legal to do so.

Solidarity. As we have sought ways to stand together in
the strong solidarity of the body of Christ, we have found         "For in the one Spirit we
that there are few legal strategies that can prevent the           were all baptized into one
dismembering of the body. We who have gathered are clear           body Jews or Greeks,
that our first loyalty is to God and our Christian brothers        slaves or free and we were
and sisters, even if that may cause us to violate immigration      all made to drink of one
laws. . . . Some of the actions we are considering are:            spirit . . . But God has so
                                                                   arranged the body . . . that .
   •   Congregations could adopt immigrant families,               . . the members may have
       either legal or illegal, to enter into real relationships   the same care for one
       with them and share the struggle of our threatened          another. If one member
       brothers and sisters.                                       suffers, all suffer together
   •   Congregations could recognize the realities of              with it; if one member is
       subsistence for immigrant brothers and sisters and          honored, all rejoice
       choose to hire -- or encourage their employer               together with it. Now you
       members to hire -- "illegals," choosing to obey God         are the body of Christ and
       rather than the dictates of our government;                 individually members of
   •   When families of our brothers and sisters are               it." I Corinthians 12
       separated by INS officials, congregations could
       engage in mutual aid to sustain them.

From a statement signed by 27 participants at the Anabaptist Immigration Conference,
May 5, 1997, Chicago, IL

Faith That Reflects, Faith That Acts

Reflection Steps

Reflect on the Bible texts in the box below. What do these verses tell us about God's
concern for immigrants and other vulnerable people?

The Bible stories above give numerous examples of governing authorities overstepping
their God-granted role. In what ways, if any, do you believe that current U.S.
immigration laws and policies overstep the role that God intends for government?

What are the strongest arguments in favor of churches offering shelter, assistance, and
jobs to persons who are undocumented — persons who are "illegal aliens" in the eyes of
the law?

When does Christ's call for us to "love neighbor as self" put us at odds with the law of the
land? What guidance can you glean from the principles outlined in the biblical reflection
Action Steps. Consider one or more of the following:
                                                                Biblical Texts for
1. Educate yourself. Become informed about issues               Additional Study
affecting immigrants by reading newspapers and
magazines.                                                      Exodus 23:9

2. Join a group. Become a member of a national                  Leviticus 19:33-34
immigrant rights organization.
                                                                Deuteronomy 24:14-22;
3. Practice hospitality. Help create a climate of hospitality   27:19
for immigrants in your community by:
                                                                Jeremiah 22:3
   •   Speaking out against nativism and the xenophobic
       scapegoating of immigrants.                             Matthew 25:31-46
   •   Putting a human face on the newcomers in your
       community (e.g., help them share their stories, accomplishments and
       contributions with your church, local newspapers, clubs, etc.).
   •   Offering your church facilities and volunteers to local organizations for English
       classes, ethnic community celebrations, or outreach programs identified as a need
       in your community.
   •   Offering shelter, assistance and jobs -- even to undocumented immigrants.

4. Community education. Organize discussion groups and forums on immigration issues
in your church.

5. Advocate. Become an advocate for fair and humane policies for immigrants and
asylum seekers on the local, state and national level by:

   •   Keeping abreast of immigration legislation through MCC's Washington Office or
       MCC's Immigration Office in Akron.
   •   Contacting your local, state, and national elected officials, telling them of your
       concern that immigrants are treated fairly, with dignity and respect.
   •   Inviting elected officials to your church during ethnic celebrations.
   •   Taking refugees or asylum seekers to your representative's office to tell their own
   •   Joining national campaigns on specific immigration issues publicized by one of
       MCC's offices or other immigrant rights organizations.

6. Dig deeper. Explore root causes of why people immigrate by organizing fact-finding
missions and study tours to troubled areas such as the U.S.-Mexican border, refugee
camps, jails and prisons where asylum seekers are detained
in your community.

                                                                Immigration Facts
                                                                and Figures
Immigration Resources
                                                              Immigrants add about $10
                                                              billion each year to the
                                                              U.S. economy.
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Immigration Office
                                                              Immigrant households paid
                                                              an estimated $133 billion
Amnesty International
                                                              in direct taxes to federal,
                                                              state, and local
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services
                                                              governments in 1997.
National Council of La Raza
                                                              Businesses started by
                                                              immigrants add at least
The National Immigration Forum
                                                              another $29 billion to the
                                                              total taxes paid by
Videos                                                        immigrants.
"Between Two Worlds." A 12-minute video produced by
                                                              Roughly 17.5 million
West Coast MCC that chronicles why people choose to
                                                              immigrants in the U.S.
leave their homelands and journey to the U.S. Describes the
                                                              today had their education
difficulties new immigrants face and challenges the viewer
                                                              paid for by their home
to respond with Christian compassion.
                                                              country a $1.43 trillion
                                                              human capital windfall for
"Beyond the News: Immigration." A 54-minute video
                                                              U.S. taxpayers.
produced by Mennonite Media. Six discussion segments:
the border, economics, the working immigrant, political
                                                              Immigrants who become
asylum, resettlement and "from fear to dreams."
                                                              U.S. citizens typically pay
                                                              more in taxes than do
Packets                                                       native-born Americans.
"Welcoming the Newcomer: Doing Advocacy with                  Source: National
Immigrants." For individuals and congregations seeking
                                                              Immigration Forum
to welcome immigrants in their communities.

"Immigration Information Packet."General information on immigration law for
newcomers seeking advocacy or referral. Available in English and Spanish.

To top