Presbyterian Church leaders reflect on one-year anniversary of travel ban

Church continues call for immigration reform

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are remembering an anniversary this week, but not one they are happy with. On Jan. 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven countries that are predominantly Muslim.

The order generated numerous demonstrations and legal protests over the weekend. Faith leaders across denominations voiced their opposition including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) A year later, their position remains unchanged.

“I lament the appalling use of immigration law to block entry to the United States of individuals seeking safety, seeking reunification with family members, and seeking the opportunity to enrich our nation and culture with their gifts and skills,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, ll, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA). “The church and its antecedents have consistently advocated for immigration reform that takes humanity, dignity, and family into consideration.”

The 202nd General Assembly (1990) of the PC(USA), the church called for immigration reform that included provisions to:

  1. Provide for the human needs of refugees and immigrants;
  2. Assure non-discriminatory humanitarian aid and application of laws and policies;
  3. Give special consideration to the unification of families; and
  4. Vigorously combat any expression of racism either in policies or the implementation of them.


Nelson said the travel ban reflects none of the priorities.

“In fact, it denies the possibility for individuals to come to this country based solely on nation of origin. This is not the United States expressing its core values to the world. This is the United States reflecting its sin and shame,” he said. “We in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) choose welcome and choose to raise our voices with Muslim sisters and brothers in solidarity, ready to advocate for justice.”

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins had only been on the job as director of the Office of Public Witness a few weeks when the ban took place. One of his first acts was to take part in a press conference on the steps of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., speaking alongside pastor Roger Gench, Sojourner’s Jim Wallis, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, a local Iman and other clergy.

“The most powerful statement to that day occurred, however, when I returned to my office. As I looked out of my window in the direction of the Supreme Court, I beheld a sight which inspired me,” said Hawkins. “Over 2,000 people had gathered on the sidewalk facing the court with signs and shouts of outrage and resistance.”

Hawkins said he was inspired and motivated by the crowd of mostly young people from the U.S.

“We are a nation which welcomes the immigrant, refugee and alien fleeing persecution praying for a better life,” he said. “Scripture demands that we open the doors of our hearts and our homeland to provide a safe haven for those who seek it.”

Hawkins said the one-year anniversary will not pass without continuing to say “no to hateful and harmful policies which discriminate against families and especially children.”

Over the weekend, thousands gathered in New York and other cities to protest the ban.

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