Clergy Seek Tips on Immigration

Yonat Shimron, News & Observer (Raleigh), July 2, 2010

Many North Carolina clerics are raring to tackle immigration reform.

That’s why some found United Methodist Bishop Al Gwinn’s address Thursday lacking.

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The clergy assembled for the breakfast meeting–mostly fellow Methodists, but also Baptists and Roman Catholics–are already supportive of illegal immigrants and ready to advocate on their behalf. They wanted more practical tips on how to do so.

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A majority of religious groups support legislation that would allow the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. Yet they face a buzz of populist opposition in an election year.

So strong is the opposition that Chris Liu-Beers, an associate with the N.C. Council of Churches, said he feared the General Assembly might consider a law similar to one recently passed in Arizona, which requires law enforcement officers, while enforcing other laws, to question a person’s immigration status if officers have a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.

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One, the Rev. David Haley of Winstead United Methodist Church in Wilson, suggested the populist revolt against immigration is not well-understood.

“The anger we’re speaking about is smokescreen for a larger issue, and that’s fear,” Haley said. “Those terrorists just walked across the borders and crashed those planes into buildings.”

He said one way to defuse that fear was for churches to invite illegal immigrants to worship and fellowship together. In his own congregation, Haley said he helped an illegal immigrant with some money and supplies. Later, she and her children started attending the church.

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