The board of directors of the General Board of Church and Society adopted the following statement at its meeting Oct. 24-26, 2018, in San Antonio, Texas.
WASHINGTON — We, the directors of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, are gathered this week in San Antonio, Texas. During our meeting, we focused on the impact of the U.S. government’s zero tolerance policy on migrant families seeking asylum and communities along the U.S.-Mexico border. A delegation of four of our members traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to better understand the root causes of migration, the right to asylum and the criminalization of migrants.
Our delegation heard stories of men, woman and children fleeing violence and corruption in their home countries of Honduras, Cuba and Zimbabwe. Traveling by foot across the International Gateway Bridge border from Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas, they passed through the metering checkpoint where, on a daily basis, migrants seeking asylum are turned away and forced to wait — a violation of the U.S. commitments under the Geneva Conventions. Our delegation met with the staff of the Federal Public Defenders office in McAllen, Texas and learned about the trauma inflicted on children who were separated from their families, as well as the massive taxpayer resources that continue to be used to prosecute the misdemeanor crime of crossing the border.
All of the faith, nonprofit, and government leaders our delegation met shared great concern and fear about U.S. troops being deployed in response to the group of migrants traveling through Mexico to the U.S.-Mexico border.
We were, therefore, alarmed to learn that the administration will most likely send U.S. troops to the U.S-Mexico border.
The United Methodist Church is resolved “as followers of Jesus, to work to eliminate racism and violence directed toward newly arriving migrants to the United States.” Further, we “denounce and oppose the rise of xenophobic, racist, and violent reactions against migrants in the United States, and support all efforts to build relationships among people, instead of building walls among diverse ethnicities and cultures.” (2016 United Methodist Book of Resolutions, 3281 “Welcoming the migrant in the US”)
Guided by this social teaching of our church, empowered by the scriptural mandate to welcome the stranger and sojourner (e.g., Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:34, Matthew 25:35, and Hebrews 13:20), and emboldened by our shared experience at the border:
- We oppose the decision by the U.S. government to send U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
- We call on our fellow United Methodists to contact their elected officials and the U.S. Department of Defense to express their opposition to U.S. troop deployment at the U.S.-Mexico border.
- We call on our fellow United Methodist to prayerfully and peacefully rally, march and protest in solidarity with our brother and sisters seeking asylum and refuge.
- We call on our fellow United Methodists to bear witness by being present in immigration courts and visiting immigration detention centers.
- We call on our fellow United Methodists to pray for all those affected and build communities who welcome migrants with compassion and grace.
The General Board of Church and Society is the social justice, advocacy and peace-building arm of The United Methodist Church. The Rev. Paul Perez, Michigan Conference Associate Director for Mission and Ministry, is a member of the General Board of Church and Society. He led the recent delegation of Board members and staff for the US-Mexico border.