Community Leaders Discuss Immigration Reform at UMC Service Center

Date Posted: 9/24/2015

Elected officials and church leaders are working together to facilitate immigration reform in a unified manner.
Global hospitality. Since this is a vital part of the United Methodist belief system, the Texas Conference welcomed a group of bipartisan city leaders to an immigration reform roundtable September 2 to discuss “nontraditional” solutions.
This idea grew out of a community assessment project headed by Consultant Daniel Diaz who has been working with TAC and Justice For Our Neighbors Director Brenda Diaz. The Center of Missional Excellence helped sponsor the immigration roundtable to discuss some of today’s pressing issues that affect immigrant communities. Notes Daniel, “Senator Sylvia Garcia (D) and State Representative Gilberto Pena (R) had a dialogue with community advocates Martina Grifaldo and Claudia Rios, JFON staff and board; church leaders from UMC about how we can change the current narrative the media is portraying about immigrants,” explains Daniel.
According to Brenda and Daniel, immigration has found its way to the top of the national political dialogue, especially in presidential election politics. Notes Daniel, “Immigration is a very important issue to the progress of this country, especially when most of us in the United States have ancestors who were immigrants. Although the immigrant experience has played a major role in the identity of our country, it is unfortunate that much of the current dialogue on immigration is led by fearful and discriminatory language. With much of the national narrative in immigration painting the immigrant as a criminal instead of a human being seeking a better life, this caused concern amongst people who understand the complexities of immigration. The immigration roundtable provided a safe space for discussion of immigration for a diverse group that included church leaders, political leaders from both parties, and community advocates.”
JFON board and advisory members were invited to participate in this unique opportunity as passionate advocates for global hospitality. “It makes sense to connect civic leaders with JFON leaders as a resource,” adds TAC Missional Excellence Center Director Diane McGehee. “Our trained facilitator Daniel Diaz is helping us form listening groups and develop relational trust,” she says. “ As Methodists, we sometimes think we know what people need, but if we don’t confirm by listening we will continue to be ineffective. This gathering of elected officials serving in the East End, Houston provided an opportunity to share ideas collectively and try to effect positive change by addressing actual needs within the community.”
Immigration reform will continue to be a top priority for the task forces and think tank members of the Missional Excellence Committee. Notes Daniel, “The clear consensus among all members of the roundtable is their commitment to work together and to change the current negative narrative that discriminates against immigrants.”