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Presbyterian caucus denounces Florida’s anti-immigrant law

Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Men pens a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis

by Shani E. McIlwain | Presbyterian News Service

The logo of the Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Men, who recently penned a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking against anti-immigrant legislation.

How to be the post-pandemic church is a theme familiar to most these days and for the Assembly VII of Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Men, meeting in October for the first time in person since 2019, it was no different.

Keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. Jorge Texidor set the tone, challenging attendees to assume their responsibility to be the light of the church in today’s challenges. The agenda quickly changed course when those attending could not ignore that they were convening in Florida and that law SB 1718 was a direct threat to many in the room.  Several groups have weighed in saying the law, which went into effect July 1, has crippling effects to undocumented workers.

The spirit of this law promotes racism, discrimination, and family separation, as local panelists Dr. Teresita Matos-Post and the Rev. Tamara Leonard-Lara of Beth-El Farmworker Ministry Inc. and the Rev. Miguel Estrada of Peniel Mission testified.

The Rev. Julio Ramirez-Eve, Moderator of Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Men, and the Rev. José Luis Casal, the former director of World Mission in the PC(USA), both attended the meeting. Immigration continues to be a challenging and polarizing issue in the United States, and the pandemic has heightened this reality in many ways.  Casal said, “We clamor to God and ask him not to permit us to forget that yesterday we were immigrants. So, we must advocate for the end of laws like this one, laws which do not treat new immigrants with dignity and justice.”

Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Men met last month in Orlando, Florida. (Contributed photo)

Ramirez-Eve, who wrote the letter to DeSantis included below, offered this prayer: “Dios, danos una mejor comprensión de la realidad de los inmigrantes. Llévanos a crear leyes integradoras, justas y reconciliadoras,” translated as “God, give us a better understanding of the reality of immigrants. Lead us to create integrative, fair and reconciliatory laws.”

Here’s the letter from Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Men to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis:

October 22, 2023

Governor Ron DeSantis

400 S. Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Governor DeSantis:

The national organization, Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Men, faced a great challenge due to having selected Orlando to celebrate our Triennial Assembly VII. Despite our misgivings about holding the assembly there due to recent events, we decided to use it as an opportunity to listen to and express solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters living in Florida. This assembly was an encounter of families and leaders with the purpose of uniting hearts, families, friends and brothers and sisters in faith, because in God no human being is illegal. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:28).

On this occasion we address you due to your recent negative declarations about immigrants in Florida. As concerned residents, many of us from this state, as well as others in the United States, and as defenders of immigrants’ rights, we feel profoundly upset by your words, your decisions and the negative impact which your declarations and recently passed law have caused our society, our activity in Orlando and all that concerns the daily lives of a state with many attractions for humanity.

It is undeniable that immigrants have played a vital role in the development and economic success of the state of Florida. Their arduous work, dedication and contributions have been fundamental to diverse sectors such as agriculture, tourism, construction, and the hotel industry, among others. Immigrants bring diverse talents and abilities, and their presence in our community enriches our culture and strengthens our international relations.

Aside from their economic contributions, immigrants are also valuable members of our communities. Many of them are fathers, mothers, children and neighbors who participate actively in civic activities, beneficial organizations and educational programs. Their cultural diversity and unique perspectives help us to grow as a society and teach us the importance of tolerance and inclusion.

The negative declarations and stigmatization of immigrants only perpetuates discrimination and prejudice, creating a climate of terror, division and hostility. Your narratives, decisions and the passing of Law SB1778, generate division and insecurity, putting at risk the fundamental values of our nation, such as equality of opportunity and justice for all.

We insist that, as Governor of Florida, you reconsider your posture and adopt a more humane, inclusive and respectful approach toward immigrants. Instead of perpetuating negative stereotypes, it is fundamental to recognize and celebrate the positive contributions which immigrants make to our economy and society. Promoting policies and programs which encourage integration, education and equality of opportunity for all, independent of one’s origin, is a more effective strategy for the development and well-being of Florida.

In addition, we suggest that you work seriously in collaboration with local leaders, non-profit organizations (such as ours), and community groups to promote mutual understanding and create bridges between the different cultures present in our state. Together, we can promote an environment of respect and solidarity, where all the residents, including immigrants, feel valued, secure and welcome.

As citizens and many of us as residents of the state, we desire to live in a country and in a state which values and promotes diversity. We recommend that our strength be based in our capacity to unite for a common objective: the progress and well-being of all who call this beautiful country home.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and sincerely hope you will reconsider your declarations and policies in relation to immigrants in Florida. We are willing to collaborate and work together to construct a more inclusive and prosperous future for all.

Sincerely,

Rev. Julio Ramirez-Eve, Moderator

Hispanic/Latino Presbyterian Men

Triennial Assembly VII

Orlando, Florida


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