God Commands Us to Welcome the Immigrant
Economic and Humanitarian Reasons Congress to Allow Pathway to Citizenship
By Roy Maynard
We must welcome the strangers, Bishops of the five United Methodist Church Episcopal Areas in Texas along with several retired Bishops say—and show them the love and hospitality of Christ.
They’ve penned a letter to the Church calling for non-partisan solutions to the immigration crisis at our nation’s southern border.
“I take the Bible very seriously; God commands us to welcome the stranger and help them feel at home among us,” said Bishop Scott J. Jones of the Texas Annual Conference. “That ought to be enough. But from a secular point of view, we in Houston particularly, and all over Texas, we need people who are willing to come help our economy and make a contribution to our communities.”
The letter calls for policy changes to ensure families aren’t separated and that care is provided for those who have arrived here and are being detained. It also calls for the U.S. to help address the root causes of the immigration crisis—violence and poverty in the countries the refugees are fleeing.
“We love diversity, we love the rich cultural heritage that’s being brought, and we ought to be welcoming these people and inviting even more of them in,” Bishop Jones said.
Congress must create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already here, he added.
“It needs to have some kind of penalty phase for their willingness to break the law and be here illegally, but we have penalties like fines for speeding that are tolerable and yet recognize the rule of law,” he said. “It’s that balance between the rule of law and yet providing a pathway that I think is the answer for our immigration crisis.”
There are sound economic and humanitarian reasons to create such a pathway.
“Our economy is already using these persons in our labor force,” he said. “When they are undocumented, they are vulnerable to harassment and mistreatment. We need to get them out of the shadow economy and into the kinds of jobs that have the labor protections normal people expect.”
And there’s a deeper spiritual reason the United Methodist Church must remain involved.
“We want all persons to feel welcome in our cities and towns,” Bishop Jones said. “We want them to have spiritual homes in our churches, and we want the United Methodist Church to have a strong Hispanic component. That’s why we’re working hard at raising up pastors and other lay leaders who are able to reach these Hispanic newcomers.”
The letter also expresses compassion for those in the U.S. government who are working on the front lines of this crisis.
“We know that many of the people working for Border Patrol and Homeland Security are people of goodwill, many of them are Christians, and many are Methodists,” Bishop Jones said. “They are overwhelmed by a crisis that is unprecedented, and a Congress and administration refusing to solve the problem. It’s the women and men on the ground at the border that I feel concern for, as well. Our statement recognizes that those people are doing their very best.”
The letter’s signatories include Bishops Jones, W. Earl Bledsoe, J. Michael Lowry, Michael McKee and Robert Schnase. The retired Bishops who signed the letter include Robert E. Hayes, Jr., Janice Riggle Huie, Joel N. Martinez, John W. Russell, Ann Sherer-Simpson, Dan E. Solomon, D. Max Whitfield and Joe A. Wilson.