MCC Photo/Cherelle Dessus
The names of the leaders and the groups they represent appear at the end of this article.
A delegation of 17 faith leaders are gathering Feb. 26-28 in Washington, D.C., to address concerns with immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
“There has never been a more important time to bring faith leaders to Washington, D.C. to speak about the effects of U.S. immigration policy on their communities and to urge members of Congress to treat immigrants with more compassion and dignity,” said Tammy Alexander, senior legislative associate for Mennonite Central Committee U.S. (MCC).
The MCC Washington office will spend a day hosting the group to review current immigration legislation, refine talking points for legislative meetings and discuss broader advocacy opportunities for churches. The following day, the faith leaders will meet with their respective U.S. legislators — 16 senators and 14 representatives.
The delegation represents eight states across the U.S. and includes 14 pastors and leaders from Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), as well as leaders from the Brethren in Christ and the U.S. Mennonite Brethren denominations. MC USA previously sent a delegation May 14-15, 2013, to Washington, D.C.
“Working with the MCC Washington office to organize a second delegation of MC USA leaders gives the church a chance to share our stories as both immigrants and leaders,” said Iris de León-Hartshorn, who serves as director of transformative peacemaking for MC USA and helped coordinate the delegation as a continued response to MC USA’s 2014 Churchwide Statement on Immigration. “My hope and prayer is that hearts will be open to hear the stories and have the moral courage to do what is right.”
One timely issue this delegation will address is DACA, the immigration policy that impacts people without legal status who entered the country as minors. The Trump administration announced Sept. 5, 2017, that new applicants will no longer be accepted for DACA and set an end date for the program of March 5.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, USCIS is not accepting new DACA applications, but they will continue to accept renewal applications for the program and are operating under the DACA terms in place before Sept. 5, due to federal court orders.
“More and more families are being torn apart without DACA protection for thousands of Dreamers,” said de León-Hartshorn. “Some of these Dreamers are in our congregations, some are pastors, some are caregivers for our loved ones, some work in the fields before the sun even rises to make sure food is provided, some are our doctors and teachers in our children’s schools.”
The 17 faith leaders participating in the delegation are:
Heidi Regier Kreider- Western District Conference (Mennonite Church USA), Newton, Kansas
Izaete Nafziger- North Goshen Mennonite Church, Goshen Indiana
Isaac Villegas- Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Marty Lehman- College Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana
Melissa Florer-Bixler- Raleigh Mennonite Church, Raleigh, North Carolina
Hyun Hur- Co-Director of ReconciliAsian, Pasadena, California
Kristina (Tina) Schlabach- Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, Tucson, Arizona
Joel Miller- Columbus Mennonite Church, Columbus Ohio
Suhelen Irene Cazares- Iglesia Mennonita Casa Betania, Newton, Kansas
Richard Lee- Homestead Mennonite Church, Homestead Florida
Rhonda Dueck- North Fresno Mennonite Brethren Church, Fresno, California
Jeanne Assinthe- Homestead Mennonite Church, Homestead, Florida
Sandra Montes-Martinez- Iglesia Menonita Hispana, Grand Prairie, Texas
Esmirna G. Maldonado de Martins- Salem Mennonite of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio
Rodney Eugene Schmucker- Hope For The Broken, a Mennonite Church, Los Fresnos, Texas
Juan Sebastian Gallo- Holy City Church, Hollywood, Florida
Samuel Resendez- Iglesia La Roca, Sanger, California