The Wesleyan Church has joined together with more than a dozen other denominations and organizations to form The Immigration Alliance, organizing to equip local churches across the country to provide immigration legal services to under-resourced immigrants.
Speaking of this public launch, Dr Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, said, “I heartily support the Immigration Alliance. It is the Body of Christ expressing His love in action for all people.”
With more than 22 million foreign-born, non-citizens in the United States – and with only 12,000 private immigration attorneys and 2,800 non-profit immigration attorneys and accredited staff in the United States – the need for trustworthy, authorized legal services has never been greater.
Wesleyan Pastor Rev. Zach Szmara, of The Bridge Community Church, emphasized this need, saying, “There have been times we’ve missed the mark as the Church in North America and sat on the sidelines when God was calling us to engage and transform our culture. I am deeply grateful and extremely proud that so many different churches, leaders, denominations, and organizations have made a very profound decision to engage immigrants and immigration in a biblical, Christ-focused, and Kingdom-minded way. We are better together.” In 2014, the first Wesleyan site recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals launched at The Bridge where Zach Szmara is pastor in Logansport, Indiana.
Currently a coalition of 15 evangelical church-based denominations that represent more than 28,500 churches, The Immigration Alliance is committed to dramatically multiplying the number of sites across the country providing low cost, high quality immigrant legal services over the next three years.
In a released statement, The Immigration Alliance’s Board Chair and Christian Community Development Association Chief Executive Officer Noel Castellanos said “The Immigration Alliance is uniquely positioned to equip local churches to provide legal services to under-resourced immigrants. Churches are a trusted presence in immigrant communities that can – and should – help address this critical shortage of legal services.”
The Immigration Alliance’s legal sites provide services to immigrants including: low-cost legal counsel on immigration-related matters; support determining eligibility for benefits; and assistance in preparing applications for immigration legal status. The Immigration Alliance assists these church-based sites through a rigorous recognition process with the federal Board of Immigration Appeals. The Immigration Alliance provides member sites with thorough training, coordinates and oversees efforts to ensure quality and consistency, and shares resources to maximize effectiveness.
Rev. Wayne MacBeth, Executive Director of the Communication and Administration Division for The Wesleyan Church, placed the work of The Immigration Alliance in the broader context of Wesleyan work for evangelism and justice, saying, “Beyond our moral responsibility to serve our neighbors in need, it is a privilege to share Gods love in such a practical way. Many immigrant and refugee families current legal status forces them to live in the shadow economy. We can help many find their way into legal and spiritual light.”
In 2008, The Wesleyan Church General Conference voted to affirm a Position Statement on Immigration, by a large majority at 96%, which has led the way in providing an biblical, compassionate approach to immigration as an issue in our culture. However, as we Wesleyan’s often say related to this subject: “Immigration is an issue, but immigrants are people.” What matters most is how we interact and work at a local level in our church ministries. The work of The Immigration Alliance and The Wesleyan Church in this area is all about the people.
About Immigrant Connection
In 2013 a grassroots network of Wesleyans was formed envisioning the Spirit of God bringing immigrants and churches together through awareness and action to cultivate relationships, share resources, and provide legal services . They call themselves “Immigrant Connection” and have been the primary logistical relationship with The Immigration Alliance and are working to resource local immigrant ministry throughout North America. More information on this unique new Wesleyan work can be found by clicking here.
About The Immigration Alliance
The Immigration Alliance began in early 2013 as The Church-Based Immigrant Ministry Coalition with the goal of uniting Christian denominations and churches to help serve the legal needs of immigrants. Throughout 2013 and 2014, denominations and churches were recruited to join in the collaboration.
For more information about The Immigration Alliance, visit www.theimmigrationalliance.org or click on the below link to download the Immigration Alliance Brochure.