A long list of recommendations intended to show the church’s solidarity with immigrants and refugees in the United States will go to the full General Assembly for approval, following unanimous endorsement of most of them by the Assembly Committee on Immigration Issues. The committee spent nearly two days combining and amending 11 items of business, a number of which affirm actions of previous General Assemblies.
Generating the most debate was an overture from the Presbytery of Grand Canyon calling for rescinding an action by the 219th General Assembly (2010) that forbids national meetings from being held in states with immigration laws similar to Arizona’s SB1070/HB2162.
Debra Avery, an overture advocate from Grand Canyon Presbytery, said the 2010 action had “unintended consequences” for Arizona Presbyterians. “Some felt the greater church had abandoned them in their time of need” when it approved what seemed like a boycott of their state, Avery explained.
Ralph Clingan, a committee member and commissioner from Utah Presbytery, urged disapproval of the overture. He noted that in Utah, which has adopted immigration laws similar to Arizona’s, Hispanic and Native American people are now “subject to racial profiling” by law enforcement officers.
Melissa Gee, coordinator for advocacy and legal services for immigration for the Office of the General Assembly, pointed out that one purpose of the 2010 action was to “protect Presbyterians of all ethnicities and races from potential harassment and increased scrutiny” when they attend meetings in states with stringent immigration laws.
After some discussion, the committee voted 39-12 (with 3 abstentions) to recommend disapproval of the overture.
Among the other items being sent to the full Assembly are recommendations to:
- Affirm the scriptural call to provide hospitality to and justice for immigrants, regardless of status
- Continue to advocate on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform
- Actively advocate for legislation such as the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) that offers hope for young immigrants by providing a pathway to citizenship
- Call for termination of Secure Communities, a program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, because of concern that the program has led to racial profiling, lack of due process and violations of human rights related to the arrest and detention of immigrants
- Advocate for passage of the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act (HR 3590) to prevent deportation of Christians and others who have fled Indonesia to avoid persecution
- Call on congregations to build relationships with immigrants and refugees, seeking ways to be the church together
- Incorporate stories from churches engaged in ministry with immigrants into times of worship and sharing at next year’s Big Tent event and at the 221st General Assembly (2014)
- Develop worship and study resources based on “Being Church Together,” an immigrant ministry program of the Waldensian Church in Italy