United Methodist Women Welcomes Executive Action to Keep Immigrant Families Together, Vows to Keep Working for Reform

President’s action will leave out farmworkers, Central American refugee women and children, parents of DREAM students and those with prior offenses

United Methodist Women Welcomes Executive Action to Keep Immigrant Families Together, Vows to Keep Working for Reform
Advocating for migrant rights at the White House, July 2014.

On Thursday evening, November 20, President Obama addressed the nation to announce broad changes to the way the administration will enforce the nation’s immigration laws. The action will protect up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants from the threat of detention and deportation through a temporary status that would include work permits for many.

This action is a partial victory for immigrant families across the nation. It is the result of intense efforts by immigrant and faith organizations over the past year, including United Methodist Women, The United Methodist Church and ecumenical partners. United Methodist Women celebrates this important step on the longer journey to just immigration reform, recognizing that these actions are limited and leave out millions. We join immigrant groups and faith leaders across the nation in calling for “Not One More Deportation” pending just immigration reform. The United States needs a working immigration legal framework, and the entire immigrant community is deserving of relief from the current broken system.

The president noted that this action comes only after the failure of an intense effort to pass immigration reform in Congress, and he continued to call on Congress to pass a law that would fix a broken immigration system and offer permanent status for millions of immigrants. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) told MSNBC that Obama’s action puts him in the company of great presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, who both used their executive authority to expand rights for African-Americans.

The executive action will:

  • Protect up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants on a temporary basis
  • Instruct immigration agents to make immigrants who pose no risk a low priority for deportation
  • Offer temporary status and work documents to parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents if they have been in the U.S. for at least five years
  • Offer expanded visa opportunities for immigrants with high-tech skills
  • Expand the Deferred Action program for DREAM students beyond the age of 30
  • Revamp the controversial Secure Communities policy, which enlists local law enforcement in immigration enforcement
  • Increase resources for enforcement on the southern border
  • Pose stiff fees for those seeking temporary status — which will likely be beyond the reach of low income families

The executive action will NOT:

  • Extend to farmworkers
  • Offer undocumented immigrants with temporary status access to health care or social welfare benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid or other need-based federal programs
  • Extend to those who came to the U.S. less than five years ago, including Central American women and children seeking refuge from violence who crossed the border this past year
  • Extend to the parents of DREAM students who came to the U.S. as children but are not citizens
  • End policies that criminalize immigrants, including not only Secure Communities but a constellation of Department of Homeland Security programs that target migrants who have even the most minor interactions with the criminal justice system
  • Extend to persons convicted of crimes or misdemeanors, even those persons who have actually served their time
  • Address the particular concerns of Haitians impacted by the earthquake, including expedited applications to bring relatives from Haiti to the U.S., humanitarian parole visas for Haitians who have suffered because of the earthquake, and a pathway from Temporary Protected Status to permanent residency

Our Concerns

While we celebrate the benefits this executive action will provide to some, United Methodist Women is dismayed that it will increase funding for enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border. The militarization of the border has not stemmed the flow of migrants who come out of economic needs or are fleeing violence. It has increased deaths on the border — both in the desert and from border patrol killings. It has also increased the profits of military contractors.

We are also concerned that farmworkers and the parents of DREAM students are not included in the action, and that immigrants with prior convictions who have served their time are not included. This includes many caught up in a “war on drugs” that is now widely understood to disproportionately incarcerate people of color. Yet those affected, particularly immigrants of color, will continue to face deportation even if they have a green card.

United Methodist Women across the country have joined with the immigrant and faith communities in working for this day. We have engaged in prayer vigils to challenge the record deportation of over 2 million people during the Obama administration. We have advocated for just immigration reform. We have ministered to families torn apart by detention and deportation. We have visited immigrants in detention centers. In February and July of this year, we engaged in civil disobedience at the White House, prayerfully calling on President Obama to take executive action.

We do this as women of faith who advocate for women, youth and children around the world. We do this because we believe that all are welcome at God’s table, that no human being is “illegal,” that families should not be torn apart. We do this because our own nation has played a role in policies that have created the economic systems that have devastated families, and that have destabilized governments and created the “war on drugs” that has resulted in escalated violence. Our system also creates the demand for immigrant labor in the U.S., in which immigrants build our homes, grow, pick and process our food, create enterprises, and care for our children and elders, among other roles. We do this because we are one family and we are called on to love each person as we love ourselves.

Ways to Help

In the days ahead, as this new policy is implemented, millions will be seeking assistance in applying for the new temporary status. We encourage United Methodist Women members and United Methodists across the country to volunteer in local immigration clinics and centers that offer support to assist in this effort. We also encourage members to review our Immigration and the Bible mission study and the resources on our Immigration Justice web page, and to engage in conversations in churches and communities about why this executive action is so important to immigrant families and to all U.S. citizens.

At the same time, United Methodist Women will continue to advocate for just and comprehensive immigration reform that will increase legal paths to entry in the U.S. and offer a path to citizenship for all who are here, including those with prior convictions who have paid their debt to society. We continue to call for temporary protected status for Central American women and children fleeing violence in their countries. We continue to call for the closing of family detention centers, the end to a mandatory detention bed count, and an end to the role of private companies in running detention facilities for profit. We continue to say to President Obama, “Not One More Deportation.” We need a moratorium on any future removals until Congress acts. With The United Methodist Church and the Book of Resolutions, we affirm congregations that offer sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation. We urge the cessation of involvement of local police in immigration enforcement. We will continue to work for the de-militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and demand accountability for the use of excessive force by Border Patrol agents. We continue to work in our communities to welcome immigrants and advocate for their human rights, regardless of status.

Posted or updated: 11/24/2014 11:00:00 PM
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