Alabama churches oppose draconian immigration laws

The Republic, Columbus, IN believes that Alabama churches opposing draconian immigration laws against undocumented workers is their chance at redemption from complicity by silence during the civil rights era:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For some, opposing Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation law against illegal immigration is a chance for Bible Belt redemption.

During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, many state churches didn’t join the fight to end Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. Some cross-burning Ku Klux Klan members took off their hoods and sat in the pews with everyone else on Sunday mornings, and relatively few white congregations actively opposed segregation. Some black churches were hesitant to get involved for fear of a white backlash.

Now that Alabama has passed what’s widely considered the nation’s most restrictive state law against illegal immigration, mainstream churches, faith-based organizations and individual members are at the forefront of opposition to the act. Some see their involvement as a way to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

Some see the issue in faith terms. Christians compare biblical instructions to welcome strangers and love others with the law’s restrictions against knowingly assisting illegal immigrants by helping them secure a place to live, a job, health care other than for emergencies and even a ride to the store. Under the law, police can check anyone’s immigration status during a traffic stop or other encounter and jail people without bond if they don’t have proper documents.

Fernando del Castillo, pastor of a Spanish-speaking congregation of about 300 people in metro Birmingham, is particularly worried about a provision requiring that schools check the immigration status of students and report the information to the state. He fears some immigrant parents will be afraid to send their children to school when classes resume in August.

“Will they keep them at home? I don’t know,” said del Castillo.

Others see the issue more as a case of the state potentially interfering with the traditional work of congregations. They fear the state is criminalizing missions work by restricting the types of interactions that citizens are allowed to have with residents living in the country illegally.

“They wonder if this is the beginning of infringing on freedoms that the church has considered its bailiwick,” said Doss.

Leaders of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church all have criticized the law as running counter to biblical teachings about caring for neighbors, helping visitors and showing hospitality to strangers.

Bishop Henry Parsley’s statementon the laws:

Jesus said that loving our neighbors as ourselves is at the heart of how God means us to live. I and the Episcopal Church believe that the Hispanic population among us are our neighbors.

The recently adopted bill HB 56 will make it impossible to love and be hospitable to our neighbors as we ought to be. It is a profoundly disappointing decision and a sad moment for our state.

While we work for some functional immigration laws in our nation, let us respect the dignity of every human being, and live the vision of this nation as a place of hospitality for all.

The Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr.

The Episcopal Church has joined the “Dream Sabbath” Campaign to offer children and youth who have lived in the US most of their lives but whose parents. and therefore also the children, are undocumented.

ENS has the story here.

Virginia Bishop David C. Jones July 12 represented the Episcopal Church at a press conference on Capitol Hill called by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) to announce the upcoming DREAM (Act) Sabbath.

“The DREAM Act points to a moral good — access to education. Young people, having graduated from high school and having done no wrong, should not be barred from access to college loans, grants and scholarships simply because of the actions of their parents,” said Jones in an e-mail sent to Episcopal News Service following the press conference. They are, like their classmates, inheritors of the American Dream. They should not be denied opportunity. The DREAM Act opens the door to that opportunity.”

See Press Release from the Episcopal Church below:

The Episcopal Church

Office of Public Affairs

Episcopal Church joins “Dream Sabbath” Campaign in support of national DREAM Act

Approved by General Convention 2009 in Resolution B006

[July 7, 2011] The Episcopal Church has joined other religious denominations and faith-based organizations in supporting the DREAM Act, and asks churches to participate in a Dream Sabbath between September 18 to October 9.

DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. The DREAM Act 2011 is bipartisan legislation that would grant legalized status to undocumented young people with good moral character who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and graduated from high school. Permanent resident status would be available upon completion of two years of higher education or military service.

“The Episcopal Church supports the DREAM Act through the approval of General Convention 2009 Resolution B006,” noted Alex Baumgarten, Episcopal Church Director of Government Relations and International Policy Analyst. “The DREAM Act would help thousands of youth who came to our country as undocumented to receive legal status, thereby granting untold opportunities on their way to becoming United States citizens.”

“Every child growing up in America deserves the opportunity to become a productive member of society and to achieve their dreams,” noted Ana G. White, Episcopal Church Immigration and Refugee Policy Analyst. “Withholding legal status from these children not only hurts them, but it deprives America of future generations of dedicated citizens, innovators, entrepreneurs and public servants. The DREAM Act will help them.”

Dream Sabbath Campaign

The Dream Sabbath Campaign is an interreligious effort, coordinated by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, to enlist churches to dedicate a Sabbath for dialogue on the Dream Act.

Churches can also request a DREAM Act student come to their worship service between September 18 and October 9 to share their story.


Each year approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools. Passage of the DREAM Act is one important step towards the just and humane reform the broken immigration system needs.

The DREAM Act was introduced in the 112th Congress on May 11 by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Harry Reid (D-NV) in the Senate as S.952 and in the House by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) as H.R.1842.

The DREAM Act will not apply to students with criminal records or dishonorable discharges from the military. Rather, the DREAM Act would provide a tough but fair process by which they could gain legal status.


For more information and resources contact


Dream Sabbath Campaign

Episcopal Church General Convention 2009 Resolution B006

Resource: National Immigration Law Center

On the web

Episcopal Church joins “Dream Sabbath” Campaign in support of national DREAM Act

The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church




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