United Methodist Church leaders sent a letter to the ranking members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security opposing the altering of the DREAM Act urged by a Southern Baptist Convention official.
Leaders of the United Methodist Church urged U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer, left, and John Cornyn, ranking members of a Senate subcommittee on immigration, to resist a call to weaken the DREAM Act.
"You have recently received encouragement from other religious leaders to pass an altered DREAM Act that would limit the full rights of DREAM students' citizenship by eliminating their ability to petition for legal status for immediate family members," read the letter.
"We believe it is immoral to create a permanent second class of citizens who do not have access to full citizenship, and we do not support calls for legislation that would do so."
The DREAM Act – Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors – would allow children whose parents entered the United States without documents a path to citizenship via college education or military service.
Minerva Carcano, resident bishop of Phoenix, Julius Trimble, resident bishop of Iowa, and Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, signed the July 18 letter to Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Associated Press reported on June 30 that SBC official Richard Land had written Schumer and Cornyn offering conditional support for the DREAM Act if the bill would not allow children who gained a path to citizenship "to help their relatives gain legal status or enter the country."
A Baptist Press story further qualified Land's position saying, "Those who meet the requirements outlined by Land would be in a position to be considered legally in the country but might not necessarily become legal citizens or permanent residents."
The Methodist leaders said that "altering the DREAM Act ... is untenable and unnecessary."
They wrote that "adding the additional barrier preventing DREAM Act-eligible students from eventually reuniting with immediate family members is redundant, unnecessary, and punitive."
The United Methodist Church is the third largest denomination in the country, with 30,000 churches. It has advocated for the DREAM Act since it was introduced in 2001.
Expressing support for Senate Bill 952 (DREAM Act), the Methodist leaders wrote: "For too long, these students who recognize the United States as their only home have been denied the opportunity to further contribute to the U.S. economy and society. We strongly encourage you to please use your leadership to ensure that the promise of U.S. citizenship knows no permanent second class and that the struggle that DREAM students have fought so long and hard for is not in vain."
Introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), SB 952 has 34 co-sponsors.
Faith leaders joined Durbin last week in announcing the DREAM Act Sabbath, an initiative in which houses of faith will focus on the DREAM Act from Sunday, Sept. 18, to Sunday, Oct. 9.
"Why would we not want to embrace their dedication, energy, talents, and courage – characteristics that have made our nation great? It would be to our detriment to forsake them," said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, at the press conference, of the DREAM students, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
Speaking on behalf of U.S. Catholic bishops, McCarrick said they planned to promote the DREAM Act Sabbath.
The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas is the principle funder of a forthcoming documentary on immigration and faith produced by EthicsDaily.com. A rough cut of the short version of the documentary was screened in late June at the annual luncheon of the Baptist Center for Ethics held in conjunction with the general assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
It was also screened for faith-based leaders the next week at the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C.
Documentary Teaser: Arizona from EthicsDaily on Vimeo.