American Baptists laud ‘Gang of 8’ plan

An American Baptist Churches USA official says the denomination’s record of welcoming the stranger is reflected in the fact that today no ethnic group comprises more than half of its members.

By Bob Allen

American Baptist leaders tasked with ministry to immigrants and refugees welcomed a bipartisan framework unveiled by eight senators being called the “gang of eight” for their public effort to get the ball rolling on legislation to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws.

Officials at American Baptist Home Mission Societies applauded the recently proposed Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform brought forward by Democrats Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez and Michael Bennet and Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake.

The Senate framework would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, secure the border, simplify legal immigration and cut down on the hiring of immigrants lacking a green card.

AlexanderAundreia“This is good news,” said Aundreia Alexander, national coordinator for American Baptists’ immigration and refugee services. “We have had many ebbs and flows on this issue of immigration reform. I look forward to working within our networks to monitor the legislative details that come out of this framework.”

Alexander serves on the steering committee of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a collection of 38 Christian, Jewish, Muslim and humanitarian organizations calling for humane immigration reform.

Recently the group outlined legislative principles including laws that address the root causes of migration, create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship and keep families intact and support for the DREAM Act to allow qualifying undocumented young people to remain in the country long enough to graduate.

Alexander, an ordained minister and attorney, said the agency took part in a recent call-in day to members of Congress organized to let citizens make their voices heard on the matter of immigration reform.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies, formed in 1832 for missionary work on the American frontier, has from its inception “been at the forefront of welcoming immigrants into our country and into our churches,” said Aidsand Wright-Riggins, head of the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA.

“God has used this faithful response to ‘strangers’ to profoundly shape American Baptist Churches USA so that no one racial or ethnic group holds majority membership,” Wright-Riggins said. “God has woven us into a coat of many colors, and we are a reflection of the American family. We are pleased with the legislative framework that is in line with our biblical call to welcome the stranger among us.”