The Immigration Committee of the 225th General Assembly will be considering four matters, including establishing a network of immigration lawyers and declaring the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be a “Sanctuary and Accompaniment Church.”
When the committee meets June 26-30, it also will hear an item on the reasonable and compassionate treatment of refugees and a resolution supporting immigration and refugee justice work in the church.
In IMM-03, the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC) recommends that a network of pro bono immigration lawyers be set up by the Presbyterian Mission Agency, through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), to work on asylum cases around the country to alleviate the suffering of immigrants and asylum seekers.
“Asylum seekers and immigrants fleeing devastation and life-threatening attacks against them are denied access to the courts because they have no means to afford a lawyer and the willing few pro bono lawyers are taxed to the limit,” the rationale states. “Therefore, these immigrants and asylum seekers are in limbo at the border or in prisons in the U.S. We, PC(USA), who are charged with being a Matthew 25 church, should weep at the disaster that has befallen our fellow siblings in Christ. We are our siblings’ keepers; therefore we are responsible for their well-being.”
PMA has commented that PDA embraces the intent of the resolution and agrees with the need to expand access to legal representation. However, there are some alternative ways to address the problem, PDA notes. For example, Presbyterian attorneys and paralegals could be urged to become trained in asylum law. Also, PDA could work with the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) and others to offer targeted outreach, webinars or workshops to match Presbyterians with pro bono legal opportunities.
In IMM-06, the Presbytery of San Jose wants the General Assembly to recognize and celebrate the many ways that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has spoken out on behalf of immigrants, refugees and their children and to declare PC(USA) to be a “Sanctuary and Accompaniment Church” that supports and encourages its congregations, mid councils and members to provide such support, and to resist efforts by the government to separate families.
Treatment of Refugees:
In IMM-08, Mission Presbytery seeks for the whole church to be provided with information about conditions that precipitate migration as well as obstacles to the care of refugees, and practices related to detention and deportation. It also calls for advocacy and resources, including a toolkit for local congregational action for “reasonable and compassionate” treatment of refugees.
Supporting justice work
IMM-09 is a resolution from REAC that various entities work together to create a comprehensive policy report with recommendations addressing ongoing justice concerns of people seeking to enter the United States by way of the southern border, and report back to the 226th General Assembly (2024).
For more information about the upcoming General Assembly, go here.