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The Wisconsin Council of Churches announced plans to release a statement supporting reform of immigration laws on June 4 in Racine. In cooperation with WISDOM, a group that promotes alternatives to prison that protects the community, and Voces de la Frontera, an organization that advocates for immigrants’ rights, the ecumenical religious body solicited support from religious leaders from across the state for its call for immigration reform.

The document reads, “Throughout our state’s history, Wisconsin’s faith communities have been blessed and enriched by immigrants, whether they arrived from Europe before statehood or more recently from Latin America, Southeast Asia, or elsewhere. Their faithfulness and hard work founded and have sustained our congregations. The gifts of their varied cultures have renewed and creatively transformed our congregational life and strengthened our service to our communities. Together with the descendants of the original inhabitants of this continent, and those whose ancestors were brought as slaves from Africa, they are part of the rich tapestry that is Wisconsin today. In the diverse members of all these groups, we behold manifold reflections of the face of God.”

It notes that many Biblical characters left their homelands to become refugees or immigrants. For instance, God called Abraham and Sarah to leave all they knew. The Hebrew people who escaped slavery in Egypt wandered for decades before settling in a new land. Joseph, of the fancy, colorful coat, established himself in Egypt though he was a foreigner. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into Egypt in their flight from a wicked king. Further, scripture urges us to offer kindness to the strangers and resident aliens living among us.

The document urges Congress to “ensure just and compassionate treatment of all immigrants while providing for our country’s security and economic well-being,” and to develop “an immigration system that reflects our values as a nation.” It urges our nation to adopt four goals, to keep families together, offer a path to citizenship to those willing to accept the responsibilities of being citizens, to protect immigrants from exploitation and injustice, and to regulate the movement of goods and people across our borders without excessive reliance upon fences and force of arms.

In conclusion, it calls us to “Let us honor the memory of past immigrants who built our congregations and communities, and the dreams of today’s immigrants whose hopes are inseparable from all our dreams for a better, stronger America.”

For more on Wisconsin Council on Churches, visit http://www.wichurches.orgl for Voces de la Frontera, visit http://www.vdlf.org; for WISDOM, visit http://www.prayforjusticeinwi.org. The Wisconsin Council of Churches has a free study guide on immigration reform called “Becoming Welcoming Communities: Immigration in Light of Biblical Faith” available on its website.

— Carolyn Kennedy is the pastor of the Mazomanie United Church of Christ and can be reached at (608) 220-6987 or by email at mazoucc@charterinternet.com.