Letter to the President in Support of Sanctuary and in Hope of Administrative Relief
September 17, 2014
The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, wrote a letter to the President of the United States in support of Sanctuary and in Hope of Administrative Relief. The full letter is posted below.
September 15, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
Congregations across the United States in this denomination and others are prayerfully discerning how to be the church for persons with deportation orders. As faith bodies find the values of their tradition at odds with the values reflected in the implementation of immigration law and policy, they are making the difficult choice to offer sanctuary. I write to you today about these congregations and, more importantly, the persons they are choosing to protect to ask that you defer the deportations of these individuals and others like them.
As persons of faith we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are also called to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Standing alongside our neighbor and in the name of justice, this denomination, through the General Assembly, has been making statements about immigration reform for decades. We want family unity and a path to legalization. We want enforcement that is accountable and respects due process. We write letters and make phone calls. We hold rallies and vigils. We pray. Last year’s passage of the Senate Bill gave us hope. This year’s House Bill—until it languished in committee—gave us hope. Your announcement in March regarding plans for administrative action gave us hope. So we waited, thinking that soon undocumented persons would no longer be living in fear, soon families would stop being separated. Regrettably, Congress never passed comprehensive immigration reform and, with your announcement on the sixth of September, this administration has again delayed relief to 11 million people at risk of deportation.
We are still praying. We are still writing. We are still holding rallies and vigils but, with every day that passes, 1,000 people are deported. Among the 1,000 whom are daily expelled from this country are persons who would have benefitted from reform. They are members of our church. They are parents. While we keep our eyes on the prize of lasting relief, some churches can no longer bear the disappearance of beloved members of their community. Southside Presbyterian Church is holding Rosa Robles Loreto in sanctuary. She is a mother with a deportation order. She has no criminal record and has lived in this country peacefully for fifteen years. University Presbyterian Church is holding Luis Lopez Acabal in sanctuary. He is a father with a deportation order. He has lived in and abided by the laws of this country for seven years. Neither Rosa nor Luis meets the enforcement priorities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and, yet, they were both on the eve of deportation when they entered the churches where they now live. These congregations are living out their love of neighbor by protecting families vulnerable to separation. They are doing justice by showing your administration that it is not abiding by its own enforcement policies. This denomination has a history of supporting its churches that find the offering of sanctuary to be an appropriate moral response. These churches are no different and have our support today.
President Obama, we ask that you consult with your Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, and set aside the deportation orders for Rosa and Luis. This, however, cannot be all that you do in response to this crisis. Churches all over the country are encountering their own Rosas and Luises—persons with deportation orders who do not meet the agencies’ enforcement priorities. All of these people deserve protection as well. This is protection that you have the power to give them by reconsidering your decision to delay and offering administrative relief now.
The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
cc: Jeh Johnson, United States Secretary of Homeland Security