Friday, November 21, 2014

Presbyterians Thank President for Immigration Executive Action


Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Stated Clerk, the Rev. Gradye Parsons last night reacted to the President’s announcement of deferred action for the undocumented parents of citizen and legal resident children:

“Tonight the prayers of millions have been answered. Soon many of our neighbors will no longer be at risk of deportation. Still, we lament for those who will not gain relief from this program. This church will stand with those that qualify for relief as they enter the process and we will also continue to stand with those still at risk of deportation by visiting them in detention, protecting them in our sanctuaries and by praying and pressing for broader and more lasting relief through comprehensive immigration reform.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is thankful that President Obama’s executive order, which stands in a long, bipartisan tradition of executive authority protecting vulnerable populations of immigrants. This action will allow undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to register with the federal government. These persons, if approved, will receive a three-year period of protection from deportation and permission to work. This action also expands eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to an additional 300,000 young people. Although the President’s plan will not make beneficiaries eligible for U.S. citizenship or green cards, their ability to work and feed their families, while providing livelihoods for themselves, is an extraordinary move forward from the current immigration policies. It is estimated that this action will benefit some five million people and their families.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has consistently called for the protection of family unity in immigration policy and for comprehensive immigration reform. The 206th General Assembly (1994) adopted the “Call to Presbyterians to Recommit to Work and Pray for a Just and Compassionate U.S. Immigration Policy.” Again, in 1999, 2004, 2010, 2012, and 2014 Presbyterians, through General Assembly actions and guided by theological and ethical principles, continued to call for a commitment from both Presbyterians and the government to work toward welcoming immigrants into communities and providing just laws that affect those who live and work in the United States.

“We believe that the President's executive order is a step in the right direction,” said the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, PC(USA) Director for Public Witness, “however it does not fully address our commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. We will continue to call for major reform of U.S. immigration policies that will provide a viable path to citizenship for all immigrants in the United States, including the 11 million undocumented neighbors currently living and working the shadows.”

The President’s action provides a new foundation on which Congress must build. The Rev. Nelson continued by calling on Congress take the President’s lead by “enacting meaningful, comprehensive reform that provides a pathway to citizenship, enacts the DREAM Act, demilitarizes the borders, and protects family unity. Today, we are not where God will eventually take us, but the President’s action moves us closer to our vision for one nation, under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”


- Emma Lazarus, engraved on the Statue of Liberty Greeting Arriving Immigrants on Ellis Island

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Struggle for Family Unity Continues: Sanctuary Movement 2014

Today as we await President Obama’s announcement on deportation relief for a undocumented immigrants, we continue to affirm the need for the 2014 revival of the 1980s Sanctuary movement.

Sanctuary 2014, in short, is the nationwide movement of people of faith to shield family members under immediate threat of deportation from separation. By invoking 2011 policy set by immigration authorities, which recommends individuals who fit certain qualifications be granted deportation relief through prosecutorial discretion, faith communities protect these individuals in the shelter of their churches until they receive a stay of removal or their cases are closed. These qualifications include the length of time they have resided in the U.S., a lack of a criminal history, and whether an immediate family member -- a child, parent, or spouse -- is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

A Growing Movement

Since our last post, the movement has grown. There are now six individuals residing in the Sanctuary of congregations across the nation, from Francisco Aguirre in Portland, OR to Angela Navarro in Philadelphia PA. Over 24 congregations are prepared to offer Sanctuary when needed, and more than 70 congregations have signed a declaration in support of the movement.*

We’ve also seen the movement work: Beatriz Santiago Ramirez, the mother who took Sanctuary in Chicago in September, won her case three weeks ago!**

Three PC(USA) Churches Now Provide Sanctuary
Rosa with husband Gerardo and their sons

Rosa Robles Loreto and Luis Lopez Acabal and the Presbyterian church communities that surround them continue to struggle to reach a resolution to their cases in Tucson and Tempe, AZ, respectively.

Rosa Robles Loreto, a spouse and mother of two boys, has been living in Sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian, for over 100 days. She is unlikely to receive relief under President Obama’s executive action, which will only grant relief to parents of documented children.

Luis with wife Mayra and their daughter
Luis Lopez Acabal, a spouse and father, has resided within the bounds of University Presbyterian for 74 days. It is unsure whether he will be granted relief through the President’s action.

Angela Navarro entered into Sanctuary at West Kensington Ministry at Norris Square (PCUSA affiliated) in Philadelphia, PA, with her husband and two children on Tuesday of this week. She is the 8th individual to do so this year. Angela is a hard-working mother who has lived in the U.S. for over 10 years. She met her husband and has raised two children here.

Executive action does not mean our struggle is over: we still need Sanctuary. Applications for the pending deportation relief will not become available until the new year, potentially leaving the families in Sanctuary in legal limbo. Moreover, we don’t know whether individuals with final deportation orders, like those in Sanctuary, will be able to apply for relief. Not only that, millions of families like Rosa’s will not benefit from this relief, whether from having undocumented children, a past criminal record, or no children at all.
Angela Navarro and her two children

How You Can Help:

As people of faith, we must continue to stand on the side of the most vulnerable immigrants and their families. This executive action is likely to increase the vulnerability of undocumented immigrants who do not meet its requirements.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirmed at the 221st General Assembly that it strongly supports local churches standing in solidarity with and protect immigrants facing deportation. This assembly created the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative, a campaign to “empower” Presbyterians to work to change policies and practices that infringe on the human and civil rights of immigrants in our communities including immigrant detention, streamlined deportation, and the executing of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by local law enforcement.

In the next weeks, look for more ways to support those in Sanctuary.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Faith Leaders Meet EPA Administrator McCarthy

For more information contact:
Tricia Bruckbauer, Creation Justice Ministries (253) 592-5534

(see below for photographs)

Faith Communities Meet with EPA Administrator McCarthy
Deliver thousands of comments in support of the Clean Power Plan

Washington, D.C. Representatives from 17 religious organizations met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy Tuesday afternoon to highlight the support and work of the faith community on the rules to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.  Those gathered represented the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs, Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, the Coalition On the Environment and Jewish Life, the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Interfaith Power & Light, the Islamic Society of North America, Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, Sojourners, the United Methodist Church, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and Creation Justice Ministries.

Over the last year, the faith community has been involved in advocacy efforts to influence and support the Clean Power Plan. Many religious leaders testified at EPA hearings across the country on behalf of their communions.  People of faith also gathered outside of the EPA headquarters twice to bless the hearings and those offering public comments.  Many of the groups collected grassroots comments totaling in the thousands.

There is a call in most of the world’s religions to care for the Earth and for our fellow man.
Many communions represented in the meeting got involved with the EPA’s carbon rules because of a desire to address climate change and work toward cleaner air.

"The diversity of faith communities actively advocating for the Clean Power Plan is both broad and strong,stated Rev. Stacy Martin, Director of National Policy and Advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  While we sometimes come at the issues of climate change and clean air from different religious purviews, we share a common moral call to care for the planet in order to serve our most vulnerable neighbors, and future generations."

“Many in the Christian community are excited and hopeful about the Clean Power Plan,” offered Tricia Bruckbauer, Program Director for Creation Justice Ministries. “We view clean air as a gift from God, and advocate for the right of all God’s people to breath freely.  This plan to regulate carbon emissions is a step in the right direction.”

Upon finalization of the national rule, religious communities will look to the States to aid in the State Implementation Plan processes and ensure values of justice and equity are included in the different plans.  The public comment period for the Clean Power Plan is open until December 1st.


Creation Justice Ministries is an ecumenical organization representing 38 Christian denominations and their policies related to the environment.

Meeting Begins by Sharing Faith Commitment to Creation Care
Photo Credit: Eric Vance, EPA Photographer

OPW Director J. Herbert Nelson tell Administrator McCarthy
about PC(USA) concern around carbon pollution and climate change
Photo Credit: Eric Vance, EPA Photographer

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks eloquently about her
own concern for carbon pollution
Photo Credit: Eric Vance, EPA Photographer

The Assembled Faith Leaders' Delegation with Administrator McCarthy
Photo Credit: Eric Vance, EPA Administrator