General Assembly backgrounder: Immigration

Hospitality, reform legislation, end of Arizona boycott to be considered

June 25, 2012

LOUISVILLE

The nine items of business addressing immigration issues at the 220th General Assembly all propose — in various ways — the support and celebration of immigrants and advocacy for justice and immigration reform.

Two overtures — from Grand Canyon and Mid-Kentucky presbyteries — urge the Assembly to take action concerning the place, plight and contributions of immigrants in our communities. Both “affirm the scriptural call” to provide hospitality and advocate for justice and call for renewed support and action in response to a call by the 2004 Assembly for comprehensive immigration reform. An overture from Santa Fe Presbytery focuses more narrowly on immigration reform legislation.

Overtures from the presbyteries of Hudson River and Chicago take a more relational approach. Hudson River’s “urges presbyteries and congregations to begin active (more than setting up a committee) exploration in their home communities, seeking to answer how they can be church together with immigrant communities…” Chicago’s overture urges “congregations to support and serve refugees living in our own neighborhoods, neighboring towns and cities.”

An overture from the Synod of the Southwest, in addition to immigration reform, calls for detention reforms, and end to Border Patrol practices that forcibly separate families, police practices it says amounts to racial profiling, and creation of a “fact-finding team” to investigate the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on immigration from Mexico to the U.S.

A resolution proposed by the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC) would direct the Office of Public Witness to advocate for passage of the DREAM Act, which offers undocumented students and military personnel who were born in the U.S. a path to citizenship. ACREC’s resolution also proposes the development of worship and study resources that focus on “Being Church Together” and calls for continued support of an action by the 2010 Assembly that forbids national meetings from being held in states with immigration laws similar to Arizona’s SB1070/HB2162.

A resolution from the Presbytery of Grand Canyon proposes rescinding that action, stating that while it was “born out of a deep love for the church and a strong passion for justice,” it does not address the intended concerns and harms congregations in the affected states. The Grand Canyon overture also claims that the so-called boycott “directly impacts congregations, presbyteries and a synod, all of which need additional support in this time” and that “avoiding a particular region means the church is turning away from a part of itself.”

An overture from Newark Presbytery advocates passage of the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act, which is designed to give a group of Indonesian Christian asylum-seekers threatened with deportation another hearing with U.S. immigration officials. The group fled to this country 14 years ago and for various reasons failed to apply for asylum within the required one year.

Matters related to immigration will be considered by Assembly Committee 12 ― Immigration Issues. 

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