Wednesday, June 13, 2007

UMC on immigration

Commentary: Illegal immigrants are being dehumanized (UMNS) By the Rev. Humberto Casanova
The living situation for illegal immigrants in the United States is deteriorating every day in many respects. Many do not have adequate legal support in our judicial system. Without financial resources and with little understanding of English, they swarm the courts and assent to whatever judgment is imposed on them. The government is not assigning lawyers, and two-thirds of the 350,000 illegal immigration cases in 2006 were conducted "pro se." A typical case goes like this: An undocumented worker is called before the judge by a case number. An interpreter is instructed to ask the defendant if he or she has a lawyer. The immigrant answers "no" and, therefore, represents himself throughout the proceedings. The judge explains that the government doesn't see any legal basis for him to remain in the United States, and the immigrant is given three months to leave the country voluntarily. Moreover, immigrants are detained without bond and deported without appeal for minor infractions with a rage and intensity that baffles the mind. The system is not only attacking undocumented immigrants, but thousands of legal permanent residents are also deported for crimes considered misdemeanors under state law that don't impose jail time. One legal resident was returned to Cambodia for urinating in public. It is urgent for churches to provide legal assistance to immigrants to increase the possibility of a fair hearing and to plan a good defense. Experience shows that a third of cases with legal representation are successful. Especially painful are those cases in which children are separated from one or both parents because of an ineffective defense. For more on this story, log on to

United Methodist couple struggles as undocumented workers (UMNS) By Amanda Bachus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - In many ways, Darwin and Perla Alvarez are a typical hard-working couple struggling to achieve the American dream. Darwin works on a construction crew hanging vinyl siding, while Perla cares for their 6- and-3-year-old daughters. Active in their local United Methodist Church, Darwin is a lay leader and occasionally steps into the pulpit to deliver the sermon. But unlike their U.S.-born neighbors, they live in constant fear they will be ripped from their home, sent back to lives of poverty, leaving their children orphans. Darwin and Perla and millions of other undocumented workers are hoping and praying the U.S. Congress will pass a compassionate comprehensive immigration law that takes family values into consideration. For more on this story, log on to

U.S. Senate tackles immigration reform compromise (UMNS)By Kathy L. Gilbert
A comprehensive immigration reform bill in the U.S. Congress has sparked 108 amendments with a variety of outcomes that could dramatically affect the fate of at least 12 million undocumented workers in the United States. The Senate resumed debate on the bill June 4 and was expected to vote on the matter by June 8. The debate will focus on a bipartisan compromise agreement labeled a "grand bargain" during a May 17 announcement by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. The proposal (S. 1348) would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, tighten border security and mandate that employers verify they are hiring legal workers. Conservative opponents say the compromise would reward between 12-20 million illegal aliens with amnesty and encourage legal immigration. Supporters say the bill, while not perfect, is a good starting point toward fixing an immigration policy that has long been broken. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is among faith-based groups supporting the agreement as a starting framework - with some reservations about parts of the bill that apply to families. The denomination's social advocacy agency is urging United Methodists to support three family-based amendments in particular: the Mendendez-Hagel amendment delaying the family backlog cutoff date; the Clinton-Hagel amendment to designate minor children and spouses as immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents; and the Dodd-Hatch amendment, regarding foreign-born parents of U.S. citizens. For more on this story, log on to

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