April 6, 2020
By Aaron Weaver
DECATUR, Ga. — The CBF Advocacy Action Team for Immigrants and Refugees is urging elected leaders to protect the health and safety of the vulnerable immigrant and refugee community and is calling on Cooperative Baptists and other Christians to advocate for specific policies to ensure their protection amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The team, which includes CBF field personnel and state and network leaders, released today an immigrant policy statement on the United States government’s response to the pandemic.
“CBF Advocacy is committed to seeking justice for immigrants and refugees among us,” the statement reads. “These efforts complement our Global Missions commitment to ministry in the context of global migration. Across the globe and here at home, our field personnel, pastors and church members are ministering alongside those forced to make hard decisions to leave their homelands. Most migrants are escaping violent conflict, environmental degradation or extreme poverty.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis that affects everyone, regardless of their immigration status. Immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees are among the most vulnerable populations in our society. Their access to health care and public benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic is limited. Language barriers, confusion and a lack of trust in public institutions have contributed to marginalizing and distancing the immigrant community amid this global pandemic.”
The team expresses concern that the U.S. government is not adequately protecting immigrants in this moment of global crisis. “We believe the government is treating immigrants unfairly, leaving them defenseless in a time of desperation and uncertainty,” the team emphasizes. “We also believe immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees have a right to concentrate on protecting their lives and health from the spread of COVID-19.
The team is calling for increased advocacy to protect the immigrant community and is encouraging individuals to urge their elected leaders to support a series of specific policies outlined in the statement published in full below.
Stephen Reeves, associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy for CBF, stressed that everyone deserves protection during this pandemic.
“Because we believe in the inherent dignity of all of God’s children, everyone—regardless of immigration status—deserves protection from this deadly virus,” Reeves said. “We owe an even higher duty to those held in our detention centers. No immigration enforcement action is worth the life of any immigrant, nor the personnel working in the system. Moreover, the immigrants working among us are just as impacted by the economic fallout, if not more so, and are just as deserving of federal aid. In a time when we all feel vulnerable, we should be even more mindful of the most vulnerable among us. Ministry among migrant communities in this moment means advocacy for their protection and support.”
Elket Rodriguez, who serves as immigrant and refugee specialist for CBF, echoed Reeves and emphasized the biblical imperative to love one’s neighbor.
“All across our country, immigrants are hungry, thirsty and in need of someone to care for them and their families,” Rodriguez said. “They are the vivid picture of Matthew 25:35 right now. As followers of Jesus, now is the time for us to show God’s love and mercy to the stranger among us through advocacy. Now is the time to advocate for the protection of our neighbors, just as our Lord called us to do.”
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.
The following is an Immigration Policy Statement on the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic developed by the CBF Advocacy Action Team for Immigrants and Refugees. Click here to learn more about the Advocacy Team and to see a list of its members.
CBF Advocacy is committed to seeking justice for immigrants and refugees among us. These efforts complement our Global Missions commitment to ministry in the context of global migration. Across the globe and here at home, our field personnel, pastors and church members are ministering alongside those forced to make hard decisions to leave their homelands. Most migrants are escaping violent conflict, environmental degradation or extreme poverty.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis that affects everyone, regardless of their immigration status. Immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees are among the most vulnerable populations in our society. Their access to health care and public benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic is limited. Language barriers, confusion and a lack of trust in public institutions have contributed to marginalizing and distancing the immigrant community amid this global pandemic.
We believe the Christian values of welcoming the stranger and loving our neighbor should guide our efforts to advocate for the immigrant community during this difficult time. Policies that show God’s love and kindness for the stranger should allow immigrants to focus primarily on protecting their families during this pandemic. Reasonable policies should move the government to listen to the needs and worries of immigrants, not to ignore them.
We are concerned that the government is not taking all necessary measures required to protect immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. We believe the government is treating immigrants unfairly, leaving them defenseless in a time of desperation and uncertainty. We also believe immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees have a right to concentrate on protecting their lives and health from the spread of COVID-19.
The Advocacy Action Team for Immigrants and Refugees is calling for increased advocacy at this critical moment, when our immigrant community is even more vulnerable than before. Therefore, we ask the U.S. government to protect the health and safety of all people when it enacts policies aimed at dealing with this life-threatening crisis. In so doing, we ask supporters to advocate for and urge our elected leaders to support the following policies:
- Immigration courts must postpone all hearings, including those in the detained docket, to protect detainees, detention center workers, attorneys, immigration judges and their staffs from the spread of COVID-19.
a. The internal traffic of a detainee to different places inside the detention facility —including the courtroom—makes the detainee and every person who interacts with him or her vulnerable to physical contact and to contagion with COVID-19.
- The Department of Homeland Security should take all available measures to protect the health and safety of immigrants in detention, including, when possible, the release of all children, nonviolent detainees and detainees who suffer from underlying medical conditions.
a. Confinement is an ideal condition for the spread of COVID-19 among detainees, detention center workers and the general community. Detention centers do not allow for social distancing, because they are not designed to limit human contact and physical separation.
- The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) should extend all immigration filing deadlines for the duration of the pandemic.
a. USCIS should grant an extension for those whose status or benefits will be affected during the COVID-19 pandemic and excuse their late filing. Some immigration attorneys, law firms and legal aid institutions are not providing services to their clients or to the public currently. Simultaneously, immigrants may not have access to some of the documentation needed to appropriately file their applications or renew them, due to shutdowns and closings.
- The U.S. government should include all tax-paying immigrants in further economic stimulus bills.
a. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) allows for the government to send checks to some persons with a Social Security number. Tax-paying immigrants with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) will not receive any checks, even though they paid their fair share to the government.
- The U.S. Supreme Court should delay an announcement on the pending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case.
a. A survey of the Physicians Foundation revealed that about 27,000 of the healthcare workers in the United States are DACA recipients. Our overwhelmed health care system needs focused professionals who can concentrate on helping our communities deal with this national health crisis. DACA recipients deserve the opportunity to not be exposed to the threat of deportation or any other immigration alteration during the extension of the COVID pandemic.