June 1, 2009
Kathy L. Gilbert
When President Barack Obama opens the debate on immigration with Democratic and Republican legislators June 8, the Rev. Sonnye Dixon will be doing what his faith has taught him: praying for his neighbors.
Dixon, pastor of Hobson United Methodist Church, joined with community, business and faith leaders at a press conference June 1 to launch a national campaign to reform immigration for America. Similar press conferences were held across the country.
“I have been taught by my faith to welcome the stranger and to love my neighbor even if that neighbor is an enemy,” Dixon said. “I am praying for that conversation because an epidemic of xenophobia is infecting our nation.”
The Reform Immigration for America campaign is an effort of 200 national, regional and local organizations representing labor, faith, education, business and community working for comprehensive immigration reform.
“The June 8 meeting is an extension of Obama’s pledge during the election campaign,” said Avi Poster, president of the Coalition for Education on Immigration in Nashville. “Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue.”
“America doesn’t want families torn apart, it is time for practical and common sense reform,” said Remziya Suleyman, policy coordinator for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.
Praise for conversation
United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño applauded Obama’s decision to start the conversation on immigration and work toward reform in 2009.
“As United Methodists, we believe that immigration is a human rights issue that needs serious attention,” Carcaño said in an April 13 statement thanking Obama for putting immigration reform on his agenda for 2009.
Carcaño, also the chairwoman of the United Methodist task force on immigration, said the church stands “firmly in believing that the inherent value of all immigrants means that all of their civil liberties should be respected and maintained regardless of their legal status. We believe, however, that our present immigration policies violate these basic rights.”
The United Methodist Council of Bishops expressed their commitment to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and to stand in solidarity with “our immigrant neighbors” at the conclusion of its spring meeting May 13.
“I am praying for success,” Dixon said. “How we deal with reform is how we will be viewed in the world.
“God puts people in our paths so we can learn to love them.”