For Immediate Release: The Village El Pueblo
February 25, 2011 228-436-3986
Five Mississippi Bishops Oppose MS Anti-Immigrant Bill, Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the Federal Level
Five Mississippi Bishops have joined together to oppose anti-immigrant legislation being considered by the Mississippi Legislature which closely resembles Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. The bill, SB 2179, passed the Mississippi State Senate on January 18. It was then passed by the Mississippi House as HB 54, but with considerable changes that were subsequently rejected by the Senate. The bill is now being negotiated by both chambers in a conference committee.
In a letter signed by Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Duncan M. Gray, III, Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, Bishop Joseph N. Latino, Catholic Diocese of Jackson , Bishop H. Julian Gordy, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Southeastern Synod, and Bishop Roger P. Morin, Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, and addressed to the Mississippi State Legislature and Governor Barbour, the bishops cite the need to “call attention to the moral dimensions of public policy and recommend laws that uphold the God-given dignity and rights of every person, each of whom is made in the image and likeness of God” and to reject the proposed bill which “does nothing to fix our country’s broken immigration system… and instead only serves to further marginalize and demonize undocumented immigrants in our state and disrupt families and communities.”
The bishops note that “the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in Mississippi are good, hard working family oriented, church going people who came here only to try and make a better life for themselves and their families through the sweat of their brows, like generations of immigrants before them.” The bishops urge Mississippi legislators that “instead of pursuing state laws that will undoubtedly be ruled unconstitutional, … insist that our Congressional delegation work for a just and comprehensive resolution to our country’s broken immigration system that would enhance security, strengthen our economy, and create a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.” living in the shadows.
Says Bishop Duncan Gray of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, “I pray that we might have prayerful hearts to ask what that most foundational of all biblical values – hospitality for the stranger – means for our church today. It is my most fervent hope that what appears to be a fear-based, politically motivated approach to the challenges of immigration will have no place in our churches. This is not who we are. This is not who we are called to be. Our Lord's words – "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me," makes no reference to immigration papers."
Bishop H. Julian Gordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Southeastern Synod states, “In this time when many prey on our insecurities to encourage harsh treatment of immigrants, people of faith must have the courage to speak up for the vulnerable stranger. Our scriptures and our history call on God’s people not to fear and mistreat immigrants but to protect, aid and love the stranger living among us. Jesus goes so far as to assure us that how we receive the stranger is how we receive him.”
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church adds, “The love of God compels us to work together to gentle our communities and to live with courage. We need not live in fear: fencing our state through legislation would be a fearful act. We are called to live with hospitality, wisdom and compassion. These are the strengths that will secure the future of our state and our world.”
The bishops note with regret that immigration has become such a divisive issue, and contend that it is in our faith traditions that common ground can be found on immigration. They cite three core values of our faith traditions as particularly germane to the immigration debate: the importance of human dignity, family unity, and forgiveness and mercy.
The bishops conclude that Mississippi has “much to teach the nation about forgiveness, the importance of family, and how to treat one another with dignity and respect” and should lead the way in insisting for reform at the federal level that “secures our borders, guarantees fair and effective worksite enforcement, strengthens our economy, and provides a means for earned legalization”. Together these measures would “honor the values of human dignity, family unity, and mercy and forgiveness that our faith traditions demand of us”.
Link here to find a complete copy of the letter from Mississippi Bishops to the Mississippi State Legislature and Governor Barbour.