Resolution adopted by the N.C. Council of Churches Executive Board, December 5, 2006
As people of faith and conscience, we recognize that while the issue of immigration is complex, our calling is to welcome the stranger and offer hospitality and justice to the migrant and refugee, regardless of legal status. We remember the words of Leviticus 19:33-34 when God tells the Israelites,
“Do not mistreat foreigners living in your land, but treat them just as you treat your own citizens. Love foreigners as you love yourselves, because you were foreigners one time in Egypt.”
As nearly all citizens in the United States today are descended from immigrants from other nations, we are reminded to offer support to newer immigrants who contribute to our economy and culture but who suffer discrimination, abuse, and hardship as a result of their status as undocumented residents.
Our country’s current immigration system is broken. The number of undocumented persons living in the United States has tripled since 1990 from 4 to 12 million, with 300,000 to 500,000 new arrivals each year. During that same time period, more than 2,700 migrants have died in the deserts of the American Southwest. North Carolina has experienced the fastest growth rate of Latinos in the nation, many of whom are undocumented. Congressional debate on immigration reform has often focused on piecemeal, enforcement-only policies that ignore the root causes of migration, keep families separated, and contribute to human suffering. The current political debate also has spawned an increase in anti-immigrant emotion and alarming rhetoric.
It is important that the religious community respond to the immigration crisis by offering advocacy and welcome in the face of rising anti-immigrant sentiment. Religious communities must also look to our scripture and faith traditions which call us to welcome the stranger, promote hospitality, and seek justice. Congregations should call for legislative reforms which are fair, humane, and address the root causes of migration. Many denominations and religious groups, including member bodies of the North Carolina Council of Churches, have issued statements and resolutions calling for a comprehensive immigration reform that includes the following components:
- The status of undocumented persons currently living in the U.S. must be addressed. Undocumented workers and their families must have reasonable access to paths for permanent residency. Immigration proposals which ignore or criminalize the 12 million undocumented persons in our midst do not account for the reality that these people are here as part of the work force. Treating them as criminals only drives them further underground. Bringing them out of the shadows is a better solution.
- Immigration reform must be through employment and family-based programs that allow workers and their families to enter the U.S. in a safe, legal, orderly, and humane manner. Workers’ rights must be recognized and should include basic rights to organize and collectively bargain, safe travel between the U.S. and homelands, and achievable paths to residency. Immigration reform should bring a greater share of the immigration flow through legal channels in response to recognized U.S. labor needs.
- Family unity and reunification should be given paramount importance. Our current laws are out-of-date. The wait times for close family members to reunite have stretched into many years, leaving families needlessly separated and often attempting illegal and dangerous ways to enter the United States. More legal channels should be available for those coming here to join close family members without undue delay.
- Although the U.S. has the right to control its borders, border enforcement alone should not be the basis for a solution to the immigration crisis, and border enforcement policies must be proportional and humane.
- Fundamental U.S. principles of legal due process should be granted to all persons.
- Comprehensive immigration reform must also address root causes for migration to the United States from other countries. This means promoting national policies that support fair trade, sustainable economic development in home countries, and protection of low-skilled workers and those fleeing persecution and violence.
WHEREAS the God of scripture calls us to welcome the stranger from an alien land and offer hospitality and justice to the sojourner; and
WHEREAS Jesus abolished distinctions between Jews and outsiders and declared that those who welcomed strangers welcomed the Christ; and
WHEREAS the North Carolina Council of Churches has a long history of advocacy on behalf of farm workers and low wage laborers and has consistently supported North Carolina’s oppressed and excluded populations in struggles for equality, dignity, and basic human rights; and
WHEREAS North Carolina has experienced the largest percentage increase in its Latino population from 1990 to 2000 of any state in the country and whereas many of those persons are undocumented immigrants; and
WHEREAS there has been a large increase in the diversity of North Carolina’s immigrant population from around the world; and
WHEREAS the current legal immigration system at the federal, state and local levels is broken and contributes to the human suffering of migrants and their families,
THEREFORE be it resolved that the Executive Board of the North Carolina Council of Churches, acknowledging similar positions taken by its member judicatories, encourages the U.S. government to enact comprehensive immigration reform that includes reasonable pathways to permanent residency; increased legal avenues for workers to enter the United States in a safe and orderly fashion; reunification without undue delay of families separated by migration; effective, proportional and humane enforcement of national borders and immigration policies; the right of due process for immigrants; and policies which address the root causes of migration.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Executive Board of the North Carolina Council of Churches deplores any governmental action which unduly emphasizes enforcement as the primary response to immigrants entering this country or which criminalizes persons providing humanitarian assistance to migrants. In addition, we encourage the state and local governments of North Carolina to provide for fair treatment and protection of our state’s immigrant population. We call on our member judicatories and congregations to stand with immigrants as a matter of Christian responsibility, to advocate for their well-being and protection, and to educate our members about issues affecting immigrant peoples.