By the Rev. Chester Jones
Even the weather was with us on April 10, as I joined thousands of people on the National Mall in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
I said the Pledge of Allegiance at least six times, surrounded by accents from around the world. Everything about the day supported the rally cry of this new civil rights movement: “We are
The faces in the crowd came from around the world and personified the American identity as a nation of immigrants.
From the group wearing T-shirts proclaiming “Asian Youth for Christ” to the buses with “La Iglesia de Cristo” painted on their sides, it was easy to see Jesus in the crowd. I imagine he would be carrying a sign reminding us of his words in Matthew, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
I was proud to have many United Methodist leaders and members in attendance, including Bishop Minerva Carcaño from the Desert Southwest Conference who addressed the crowd on behalf of the Council of Bishops. It is important that our church actively encourages and expands its ministry of hospitality among immigrants. This will call for the Council of Bishops to prioritize expanding immigrant ministries, particularly those working with Hispanic/Latino people. Evangelism and discipleship in the 21st century will depend on these ministries to share the Gospel with the largest and fastest growing racial/ethnic groups in the
A part of welcoming the stranger among us is recognizing the challenges and injustices many immigrants face. This starts with economic or political conditions in their home countries that cause them to leave home with the odds stacked against them and continues through the racism they face in immigration policy and daily existence in the
When considering immigration reform, the
The bill that passed the House of Representatives last December is far from just and does not begin to meet Wesleyan standards. Known as HR 4437, this bill criminalizes not only the immigrants who come here illegally, but also those who offer them humanitarian assistance. This bill is only about enforcement. The Senate attempted more comprehensive reform, but recessed without passing any immigration legislation.
According to the
American history books are full of the heroic plights of European immigrants. The struggles of current immigrants are similarly heroic. They come to the
I believe we must not address the issue of immigration from a state of fear – fear of a country where racial/ethnic people make up a majority of the population, fear of immigrant cultures thriving, fear of depressed wages.
Standing on the National Mall, surrounded by people of all colors, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of humanity; I was overwhelmed by patriotism at the ideal of America as a field of dreams; and I was overwhelmed by the sacrifice so many people are willing to make to become American citizens.
It is my hope that the history books will be telling the story of this civil rights movement and its heroes and “sheroes” in the near future. It is my prayer that the
Jones is the top executive at the General Commission on Religion and Race.