For United Methodists gathering for a lunchtime witness on May 13 at the Oregon Convention Center plaza, the phrase “stop deportations” was a rallying cry.
As the Rev. Rosanna Panizo, academic dean of the Methodist seminary in Peru, pointed out, faith both inspires and demands that Methodists take a stand on immigration rights.
“To love our neighbor is not an option; to love our neighbor is a commandment,” Panizo declared.
Delegates to General Conference 2016 will consider an addition to the United Methodist Church’s Social Principles that says: “We oppose all national immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children.”
But keeping families together has long been at the heart of the church’s mission with refugees and immigrants.
Speakers at the rally deplored a May 12 report from Reuters News Service that said U.S. immigration officials are planning raids in May and June “to deport hundreds of Central American mothers and children found to have entered the country illegally.”
Alejandra Lily, executive director and founder of Vox Hispana Cambio Comunitario, a grassroots organization that deals with immigration and human rights issues, knows the fear such raids can cause and criticized President Obama for making the separation of families a reality.
Although she has lived in the U.S. for 20 years and has four children and six grandchildren, Lily is still undocumented. “These attacks against the immigrant communities have been happening for a while and since I’ve been here, I’ve been part of the movement that is speaking against it,” she said.
United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño, California-Pacific Conference, has been a denominational leader as she campaigns for a just immigration law but said her experience while testifying at a recent Congressional hearing did not leave her much hope for legislative action.
“At that hearing, those who have been our traditional allies did not show up,” Carcaño said. Their staff aides, she added, explained those lawmakers were demoralized and tired. “I want you to help me say to them, ‘Get off your behinds.’”
In contrast, a group of affiliated Methodists from around the world who were at the rally, including representatives from the United Methodist Council of Bishops, “stands firmly for comprehensive immigration reform,” the bishop said.