Bishop Ough, other faith leaders support driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants


March 26, 2015

By: Christa Meland

Bishop Bruce R. Ough is among more than a dozen local faith leaders of various traditions who are advocating for legislation that would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in the state of Minnesota. At least 10 other states already allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive. On Wednesday, a letter signed by Ough and other faith leaders was presented to members of the Minnesota House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee.

Bishop Ough has long been an advocate for immigration reform and has said it is a matter of justice and Christian hospitality. Last year, the Minnesota and Dakotas Business and Advocacy Immigration Coalition, of which both the Minnesota Annual Conference and the Minnesota Council of Churches are members, had a meeting with staff of U.S. Congressman John Kline. In a statement that he shared at that meeting, Ough said the country’s current immigration system denies justice and violates the principle of Christian hospitality.

The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church say this about immigrants: “We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country or origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.”

Here’s the full text of the letter sent to the Minnesota House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee:

March 24, 2015

We, members and leaders of Minnesota’s faith communities, support the bi-partisan HF97, driver’s license and Minnesota identification card legislation (and its companion bill SF224). As faith leaders and caregivers of thousands of Minnesota residents, we declare this legislation essential to our state’s well being and a necessity for the public safety of all Minnesota residents. We urge the members of the Minnesota Legislature to vote for HF97 (and for its companion legislation, SF224).

Though representing communities with differing traditions, we are united as Minnesotans with a shared goal of creating safe and welcoming communities. We are humbled and cautioned by the challenges this presents, our histories reminding us both of the power of welcome as well as how it feels to be treated as outsiders. HF97 will help Minnesota become a more welcoming state by providing a lawful means for all eligible Minnesotans to become properly trained, insured, and licensed for the privilege of driving.

Our communities are home to thousands of Minnesota residents who, with this legislation, will become better equipped to safely provide for their families, support the schooling of their children, seek a doctor’s care, and participate in the life of their faith communities.

Communities excluded from the process of getting a drivers license are marginalized and come to distrust local law enforcement. They are fearful of contact with police and are reluctant to come forward either to seek aid or to offer testimony as witnesses to crimes. HF97 removes this barrier to the community policing efforts of local law enforcement and improves the public safety and security of all.

In the Northwest Foundation-funded report for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Immigrant Business Coalition, it is reported that all immigrants, authorized and unauthorized, “pay an estimated $793 million per year in state and local taxes in Minnesota.” This legislation will also help create a stronger Minnesota economy. HF97 recognizes that all Minnesota’s residents are stakeholders in and contributors to our state’s prosperity.

We therefore urge the Minnesota Legislature to pass HF97 (and its companion SF224).

Respectfully,

Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, Chief Executive Officer, Minnesota Council of Churches

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church

Bishop Ann Svennungsen, Minneapolis Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America

Jason Adkins, Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director

Vic Rosenthal, Executive Director, Jewish Community Action

Rabbi Morris Allen, Beth Jacob Congregation

Colleen Beebe, Attorney, Co-Director, Simpson Center for Servant Ministry, Simpson United Methodist Church

Rev. Luisa Cabello-Hansel, Co-Pastor, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Rev. Patrick Cabello-Hansel, Co-Pastor, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Rabbi Alexander Davis, Beth El Synagogue

Rabbi Amy Eilberg

Rev. Paul Erickson, Executive Director, Agora (a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

Susie George, Immigration Team Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ

Rev. John Guttermann, Lead, Conversations With Friends (an interfaith ministry)

Diane Haines, Immigration Team, Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ

Rabbi Michael Latz, Shir Tikvah Congregation

Rev. Bob Munneke, Immigration Task Force, Northeast Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Jesus Purisaca, M.Div., Co-Director, Simpson Center for Servant Ministry, Simpson United Methodist Church

Rabbi David Wirtschafter

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.




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