The Committee on Social Justice on Saturday approved an overture urging the Presbyterian Church to oppose proposed federal legislation that would make felons of undocumented immigrants and those — including clergy — who assist them.
That legislation, passed by the House of Representatives in December, sparked massive protests across the nation this spring, as legal and illegal immigrants and their advocates joined together to oppose it. Lawmakers are working to reconcile that bill with a Senate version that does not have the same provision.
The overture (09-15) passed by the committee also urges Presbyterians to speak out regarding the denomination’s call to stand with the oppressed and ‘to break laws that forbid us to live out our responsibilities to God and to our brothers and sisters who do not have U.S. residency documents.”
Speaking in favor of that provision, Rachel Roberts, a minister commissioner from Northern New York, said, ‘If it becomes a felony to aid an illegal alien, and as the pastor of a church, I feed someone, and I provide lodging to someone when it’s 20-below, and I go to jail, I’d like to think you’d at least encourage me.”
But several committee members objected: ‘I have a problem with people who knowingly violate our laws,” said Bill Evans, elder with Northern Waters presbytery, who likened U.S. laws to those of the denomination. ‘If we disagree with it, we have ways of doing that, but it’s not just violated.”
The overture also expresses concern about building walls along the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing the border patrol; both are provisions in the Senate bill.