By Naomi Yilma
“The concepts of stranger, alien, and sojourner furnish useful metaphors for interpreting the biblical and theological heritage of our church and God’s actions in human history. In the biblical tradition the alien is under the special protection of God. The alien is among those who receive the special protection because they do not have land. This means that the alien is to be dealt with in the same manner as the native. This is true of religious rights and of civil rights. Furthermore, that which is set aside for the alien, the widow, and the orphan (such as the gleanings of the crops) is not an act of charity but an obligation on the part of Israel, who, in truth, is an alien in God’s land.” – Church of the Brethren Annual Conference 1982 statement “Addressing the Concern of Undocumented Persons and Refugees in the United States” (www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1982-refugees)
On May 22, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will grant temporary protected status (TPS) to tens of thousands of Haitian migrants living in the United States without legal status.
Our staff commends and celebrates the extension of TPS, a crucial advance for Haitian Brethren and/or their family members who may be in the US on former TPS status. We recognize and congratulate all those who worked tirelessly to advocate for this redesignation.
In recognizing that this decision is a critical first step to protecting people from being returned to the harsh conditions in Haiti from which they fled, we call for a strategic, well-resourced, successful implementation of TPS to ensure that migrants are protected from deportation and that the 150,000 people eligible for work permits are given that opportunity.
The 1983 Church of the Brethren resolution “Providing Sanctuary for Latin American and Haitian Refugees” (www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1983-latin-haitian-refugees) “encourages congregations to employ all lawful means to protect refugees, including: providing legal assistance to refugees through administrative or judicial appeals of actions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, petitioning Congress and the State Department to grant refugee status to those fleeing political oppression in Latin America and Haiti, and providing the general public with information on the crucial issues. These actions are consistent with our commitment to obey the law unless such obedience violates conscience.”
— Naomi Yilma is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker with the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C.
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