United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcao was among a small group of faith leaders invited by President Barack Obama to a private meeting at the White House March 8 to discuss immigration reform.
"Immigration reform is a moral issue we all share in common," she said of the 14 religious leaders at the meeting.
"During the meeting, the president emphasized that comprehensive immigration reform was a high priority for him, and he asked us as faith leaders to continue to push for it," she told United Methodist News Service.
Obama asked the faith leaders to support the bipartisan group of U.S. senators who are supporting immigration reform: Michael Bennet (D.-Colo.), Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.), John McCain (R.-Ariz), Robert Menendez (D.-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.).
"He told us they were facing great anger for their stand," the bishop said.
Carcao said she was able to thank the president for his "courageous" step on behalf of DREAMers last summer. "Because of his bold step, we were able to put pressure on the regents at the University of Hawaii, and they have just approved in-state tuition for DREAMers."
Carcao said the president made it clear that he cares for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and millions of young people who came to the country as children and now are seeking a path to citizenship to complete college degrees or serve in military service. They are called DREAMers in reference to the DREAM Act or the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.
'Reunification of families top priority'
Reunification of families is a top priority for United Methodists, she said. She told the president that United Methodists have held close to 300 prayer vigils in February in support of immigration reform.
"It was so wonderful to hear him say this was high priority for him and that he believes this is the season for immigration reform," she said.
For further exploration
Learn more about the church's stance on immigration.
This is the second time the president has called on Carcao to join him as he speaks on immigration reform. In January, Obama invited her to a high school in Las Vegas when he outlined his plan for immigration reform. She was also included in a conference call with Vice President Joe Biden on Feb. 28.
Carcao is episcopal leader for the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference and chair of the United Methodist Interagency Taskforce on Immigration. She has been the spokesperson for immigration reform for the United Methodist Council of Bishops since 2006.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble, episcopal leader of the Iowa Conference and also a member of the taskforce, said he applauded elected officials meeting with constituents including representatives of the religious leadership of America.
"As a Bishop of The United Methodist Church, I applaud those who champion a human rights approach to immigration reform," he wrote in a blog post. "It seems that compassion and human rights have consistently come in a distant third to the paradigm of 'enforcement first, economic justification/exploitation followed by our neighbors are here to stay.'"
Family-unity prayer vigils
United Methodists in 32 states and the District of Columbia have been holding the prayer vigils, said Bill Mefford, director of civil and human rights at the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
"United Methodists see firsthand the impact of the brokenness of our immigration system on immigrant families," Mefford said. "Thus, we are determined to see reform passed that protects the family immigration system and reunites all families that are separated."
United Methodists are mobilized like never before, according to Mefford, who said these prayer vigils are just the first step.
"We are gearing up for neighbor-to-neighbor visits where United Methodist leaders will be meeting with the elected members of Congress in their states and districts and sharing with them the need for reform," he said. "We have seen the brokenness, but we have hope that finally Congress can do what is right and pass legislation that provides a pathway to full citizenship clear of any enforcement contingencies and reunites all families who have experienced the pain of separation."
Other participants in the White House meeting included:
- Leith Anderson, National Association of Evangelicals
- Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
- The Rev. Luis Corts, President, Esperanza
- Barrett Duke, Southern Baptist Convention
- Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Senior Pastor, New Hope Christian Fellowship
- Archbishop Jos Horacio Gomez, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles
- Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
- The Rev. Kathryn Lohre, National Council of Churches
- Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America
- The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
- The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
- Dieter Uchtdorf, Second Counselor, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
- Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners
*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].