By Ervin Stutzman
On Maundy Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. He is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and is leading the way for a bipartisan, comprehensive reform of our nation’s immigration laws. I accompanied a diverse group of people who met with him in his Harrisonburg, Virginia office. I was moved to hear people from various nationalities and ethnic groups share their perspectives on immigration. Most of us voiced the hope for a broader path to citizenship than has been possible in the recent past.
I am amazed to observe the energy with which immigration reform is moving forward in our country. Perhaps the local Baptist minister in our Thursday group symbolized it best. In his Virginia drawl, he explained that he votes Republican, and that he and his wife have come to see that our country needs to become more hospitable to immigrants. This has come about, he said, by the relationships they have built with recent immigrants.
I was pleased to learn that Goodlatte’s office has referred people to the New Bridges Immigrant Center, founded and supported by local Mennonite churches. And I watched with awe at the ease with which Isabella Castillo, a recent graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, introduced herself to Goodlatte as an undocumented immigrant who is hoping for a path to citizenship. Goodlatte replied that young people like her should have an easier path than others. Castillo will be a speaker at our church convention in Phoenix this summer. She will tell about her leadership in the push for a congressional DREAM act.
Further, at our biennial convention, our church will engage in scripture study and discernment about immigration. We hope to develop a communal sense of God’s will for our church, which in turn will have some political implications. I’m grateful that our church can serve on the leading edge of that which God is doing in our country.
The convention at Phoenix this summer will address other issues as well. We will review our progress toward the Purposeful Plan, celebrate a number of milestones that we have achieved, and plan for the next couple of years. We have received several resolutions proposed for adoption by the delegates, and within the next couple of weeks, we will likely be recommending at least two of them for discussion and discernment in your congregations.
Meanwhile, I urge all of you to prayerfully consider God’s call to your congregations regarding the needs of immigrants in your community. And please remember to pray individually and corporately as a congregation for members of Congress, including Rep. Goodlatte, who are seeking to find a comprehensive solution that will meet the needs of a broad spectrum of people in our nation. Even a year ago, this would not have seemed possible. Now, it seems to be within reach. May God, who works in ways beyond our comprehension, bring it about.