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PC(USA) webinar will focus on ‘citizenship for all’

New episode of immigration webinar looks at citizen movement for all undocumented immigrants

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

A rally including Presbyterians for Just Immigration in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of Presbyterians for Just Immigration)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — After a short hiatus, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Welcoming the Stranger webinar series returns this week with an episode focused on the movement for citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.

The webinar series is a collaboration between the Presbyterian Office of Immigration Issues, Office of Public Witness on Capitol Hill, and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. The new episode will be at 5 p.m. Eastern Time/2 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursday, Aug. 19. It will be moderated by Amanda Craft, Manager for Advocacy in the Office of Immigration Issues.

Click here to register for the Aug. 19 episode of ‘Welcoming the Stranger’

Thursday’s webinar will feature three panelists active in different aspects of immigration and the citizenship for all movement:

To help frame Thursday’s conversation, Presbyterian News Service asked Craft a few questions about the PC(USA)’s involvement with the issue of citizenship for all, and what we can expect from the webinar.

Q: What is the biblical basis for advocating for citizenship for all? 

A: Ephesians 2:17-20 (NRSV): “So, he [Jesus] came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”

Q: This is an issue we have been debating for decades in the United States. How does the Office of Immigration Issues see the prospects for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants now? 

A: President Biden included a pathway to citizenship as an integral part of his campaign platform. In fact, one his first actions as president was to introduce the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. Although the bill has not passed the House or Senate, it has caused both chambers to seek out ways that may help the undocumented community have access to pathways to citizenship in the United States. There has not been this level of conversation about access to pathways to citizenship since the early years of the Bush Administration. The past four years uncovered what can go terribly wrong when immigration policy and enforcement are taken to extremes. People are more aware. Immigrant rights organizations are hopeful that something is possible this time around. And as people of faith, we believe justice is possible as God works in the world.

Q: Are there particular churches or programs you see that are particularly successful in serving the community of people who are undocumented – efforts Presbyterians and others could join in or emulate? 

A: Numerous churches have a variety of programs which accompany those who may be undocumented (immigration status is not usually disclosed) or advocate for policy changes. Churches run English learning classes, some host legal counsel classes, some provide other services to the community. Here are a few to highlight a variety of ministries:

Presbytery of the Pacific has a bridge program through the Southern California Matthew 25 coalition. This program matches Anglo/English speaking churches with majority immigrant churches. It is about building healthy, right relationships.

First Presbyterian Church of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, works with the undocumented community. They were an integral partner in responding to an immigration raid.

First Presbyterian Church of Canton, Mississippi, through collaboration with Sacred Heart Catholic Church, responds to the needs of the undocumented community. It is an integral partner in rapid response after immigration raid.

The Presbytery of Denver’s Justice with Immigrants task force is working with immigrant rights organizations in the greater Denver area. They do lots of advocacy with state legislators to make life safer for undocumented immigrants in the area.

Peace River Presbytery’s Mision Peniel is an extension of the Beth-El Farmworker Ministries. Mision Peniel provides services and accompaniment with farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida.

Protestors for the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium. (Photo courtesy of NAKASEC)

Q: Tell us about the guests for the Aug. 19 episode of “Welcoming the Stranger” and what you expect they will bring to this conversation. 

A: Jung Woo Kim has been a leader in the DACA movement for years. His work with NAKASEC is a culmination of lived experience that pushes him into the field of community organizing with a deep commitment to change. He understands that through our collective agency we can bring about positive political change. Jung Woo knows that change is not instant and that this work takes deep conviction and dedicated commitment. He will discuss how organizing on a national level, bringing lots of voices together, can inspire us all to keep up the clamor for justice.

Joseph Fleming comes to this work as a person of faith. His organizing work is grounded in how faith calls us to see the world differently and to act in the world differently. Faith in Action works with the undocumented community through La Red network. This summer they hosted a 21-day Fast for Freedom to lift up their #WeAreEssential campaign. Undocumented community members and allies participated in the fast to draw attention to a much-needed legislative solution for immigration reform. Joseph will discuss why working on this issue is grounded in faith.

Iolanda Spinola lives in Brockton, Massachusetts. She wants her community to be a welcoming place for all. Her presentation will highlight how Brockton Interfaith Community has responded to immigrant needs in the city. She is co-chair of their immigration coalition, which is focused on citizenship for all members.

The next episode of ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ will be streamed live on Zoom at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, Aug. 19. Click here to register.

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