Washington, March 9, 2013 – In an off-the-record meeting at the White House Friday, President Obama heard the concerns of the National Council of Churches and other religious leaders about the issue of immigration reform.
Mr. Obama has called for a four-point reform of the nation’s immigration system that includes providing undocumented immigrants with a legal way to earn citizenship “so they can come out of the shadows.”
Kathryn M. Lohre, National Council of Churches president, elicited a smile from Mr. Obama when she said, “I am here representing 37 Protestant and Orthodox churches, or 45 million Christians, including – I dare say – you, Mr. President.”
Lohre emphasized the need to protect the unity of families. She said that a delicate balance would need to be struck between family-based and employment-based visas, so that the latter does not come at the expense of the former.
She urged Mr. Obama to seize a “kairos” moment for comprehensive immigration reform. “There is a opportunity in this kairos moment for the faith community to play a significant role,” she said.
“We must continue our work to educate, inform, and inspire people in the pews to put political pressure on their elected leaders to enact comprehensive immigration reform,” Lohre said. “Then we must adamantly continue the work of welcoming the stranger in our midst as a faithful response to God in Jesus Christ.”
A recent policy statement of the NCC also called on Congress to enact the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship for the children of undocumented persons.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, a past participant in the National Council of Churches’ immigration task force, thanked President Obama for his administrative action that granted DREAMERS the opportunity to remain in the country, go to school or serve in the military and to work.
“Your courageous leadership, Mr. President, has made a difference in the lives of these young people and their families,” Bishop Carcaño said. “Immigration reform is for young people, for children, for families.”
The NCC has called on the government to set immigrations policy that protects the unity of families, preserves and extends the rights of immigrants regardless of status, and extends hospitality to refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of migrant violence, according to Lohre.
Carcaño, bishop of the Los Angeles Area of The United Methodist Church which includes Southern California, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan, also stated that United Methodists continue to be concerned about the priority being given to border security above families.
The immigration view of NCC member communions is based in Romans 15:7, which calls on persons of faith to “welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, to the glory of God.”
“The Bible tells the stories of strangers, sojourners, widows, and ophans – of God’s breaking in to touch, heal, protect, and redeem the lives of those most vulnerable in our midst,” NCC President Lohre said.
NCC policies and priorities call for a “clear, direct, and reasonably short path for undocumented persons to earn citizenship,” Lohre said.
Lohre lifted up the significant track record of NCC member communions on the issue and the ongoing work of its partners, including Church World Service and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.
The text of the policy statement on immigration reform is here.
Other religious leaders who met with the president today included:
Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition (New York), who chaired the meeting; Archbishop José Horacio Gomez, Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Bishop Minerva Carcaño, United Methodist Church (California), Family Sabbath Campaign; the Rev. Luis Cortés, President, Esperanza (Pennsylvania); Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief (Maryland); Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (California); and Leith Anderson, National Association of Evangelicals (Virginia), “I was a Stranger Campaign.”
Also, Fred Luter, President, Southern Baptist Convention; Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Senior Pastor, New Hope Christian Fellowship (New York); Dieter Uchtdorf, Second Counselor of the First Presidency, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Utah); Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (Washington, D.C.); Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America (Virginia); and Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners (Washington, D.C.)