A Southern Pastor: Arkansas Clergy Members Speak Out In Support Of Dreamers

A group of Clergy members in Arkansas held a press conference in Little Rock on December 18 to announce a statement of unity aimed at supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The following are the remarks I made at the event.

My name is Melanie Tubbs. I am a Licensed Local Pastor in the Methodist Church. And as a native resident of the state of Arkansas, a follower of Christ, and a believer in Methodist doctrine, I support this Statement of Unity and call for the legislative protection of all immigrants in this country.

From parents who risk arrest, snake bite, and even death from exposure, just to cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico in order to make the money they need to feed their children, to political refugees from all over the world who are attempting to save themselves and their families from assassination, the U.S. has long been a haven of sanctuary and hope.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” (Emma Lazarus)

Remember that?

Religious leaders find ourselves in a unique situation regarding immigration policies today. As people who have been divinely called to preach the gospel, we have been told we have to carefully guard our words so that we don’t become a divisive political element in our communities.

Here’s the problem with that: We’re supposed to stand up for immigrants.

“When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34a)

“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13: 1-2)

When asking “What Would Jesus do?” as regards the current status of immigrants in our country, it is important to recognize that most of us are not directly involved in border patrol, creating legislation, or pursuing potential illegal immigrants. But we also are not blameless in the fact that this terrible situation persists and so many human beings live in fear due to these policies. Most of us participate in this crisis of humanity through our sins of omission.

As members of the body of Christ, we have a moral obligation to not only care for, but also to stand up for, those who are oppressed or in need.  It is plainly pointed out by Jesus Christ that we are to treat all human beings, no matter their position in life, as we would treat Jesus himself.

“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

We are morally and ethically required to fight for the rights of, lend aid to, and open hearts and doors to all our fellow human beings, even those who might happen to come from the opposite side of some abstract line drawn on a map. Church members should meet immigrants in the desert with water and help them find sanctuary.  They should lobby lawmakers, organize protests, hand out brochures, organize public meetings, take supplies to holding areas, monitor borders to witness the actions of patrol officers, and stand arm-in-arm in unison together between immigrants and those who threaten them with danger or deportation. This defines a revolutionary movement, but these are the required actions to live out the demands of following Christ.

As we meet here now, many innocent people are being detained in airports, facing deportation, or being denied the sanctuary of our borders as they flee from terror in their homelands. That is why Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is important and should be upheld.

Melanie Tubbs is a professor, pastor, mother, Mimi, and true Arkansas woman. She lives with nine cats and one dog on a quiet hill in a rural county where she pastors a church and teaches history at the local university. Her slightly addictive personality comes out in shameful Netflix binges and a massive collection of books. Vegetarian cooking, reading mountains of books for her seminary classes, and crocheting for the churches prayer shawl ministry take up most of her free time, and sharing the love of Christ forms the direction of her life. May the Peace of Christ be with You.