The United Methodist Church urges its congregations “to denounce and oppose the rise of xenophobic and racist reactions against newcomers in the United States and elsewhere, and to support any and all efforts to build bridges between people of diverse ethnicities and cultures.”
Furthermore, congregations are encouraged “to continue to work with community-based organizations to provide forums for citizens to voice concerns, educate one another, and confront the problems of racism and xenophobia as obstacles to building community.” These exhortations are from “The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church” in the section titled “Immigrants and Refugees: To Love the Sojourner” on page 685 of the 2004 edition.
These sound like pretty good ideas to me, so we are going to have a forum. Suzanne Gladney, the Managing Attorney for Legal Aid of Western Missouri, is going to be at our church building Monday, May 22nd, at 7:00 p.m. to lead a forum covering general immigration issues. Our church is located at 2100 Howell Street in North Kansas City, Missouri. She told me that forums such as this one have the potential to draw several hundred people. Our sanctuary can hold about 200, so we are not doing an all out publicity campaign. We are spreading the word here and there, using church connections and United Methodist communication channels.
I don’t know quite what to expect with this forum. Susy Cardenas, our congregation’s Director of Hispanic Ministry, doesn’t quite know either, but she sees it as a potentially large turnout. There certainly are a whole lot of immigrants in our area, north of the river in Kansas City. If we can get the word out to enough people, I’m sure we will fill the sanctuary to overflowing. Or we may have a dozen. Who knows?
I’m also a little uncertain about the content of the forum, but Suzanne Gladney is handling that, so I’m trusting her with that part. She alerted me that many may view this as an opportunity to discuss their specific cases, but she wants to keep in very general and just provide a bunch of info that would be helpful for everyone to know. One of the things she will provide is a list of honest attorneys who will take immigration cases at a relatively low cost.
According to Suzanne, one of the complicating issues in the whole mess is the exploitation of new immigrants by immigrants who have been here for a while. These second or third generation immigrants charge new immigrants astronomical fees to “take care of” all their documents and other needs. It is not unusual for a new immigrant to be charged thousands of dollars for a transaction that would normally cost hundreds or even less. It is complicated situations like this that many people miss when they think about the immigration issue. So a list of good, honest, trustworthy lawyers seems like a very good place to start.
All in all, I am really excited about hosting this forum. It falls into the category of “Let’s Give It a Shot and See What Happens.” I’ll certainly write a post in a couple of weeks about how things turn out. We would really appreciate all of your prayers!