By: Amanda Yanchury
As the United States Senate prepares to consider a major bill on immigration policy reform, local United Methodist Bishop Bruce R. Ough of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area has recently returned home from a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, where he joined other bishops from around the U.S., Africa, Asia, and Europe.
The purpose of the bishops’ visit on May 7 was to immerse themselves in the reality of life at the border and sharpen their focus on how The United Methodist Church can be in ministry with border residents.
“It was a very powerful experience that confronted me, and and I think all who participated, with the brokenness of our humanity and our nation's immigration laws,” stated Bishop Ough. “We absolutely must reform or immigration laws to erase this human tragedy and restore our country's commitment to provide freedom and opportunity to all who long for such.”
Bishop Bruce and his wife, Char Ough, visited Friendship Park. The U.S. government has constructed a wall in Friendship Park with a heavy wire mess with spaces between the mesh only large enough to insert a fingertip. Bishop Ough reflected, “When Char and I saw the small Mexican children on the other side of the wall all we could see was our 7-year-old grandson who was adopted from Guatemala sticking his little finger through the wire trying to touch his grandparents. This actually happens for many Mexican grandchildren and their grandparents divided by the wall. It broke our hearts.”
Some of the bishops visited the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the busiest border crossing in the world, as well as the border wall, the most striking symbol of U.S. border enforcement policies, and the Plaza de las Americas.
Others crossed into Mexico and visited the Plaza del Bordo, an open-air migrant encampment that includes both internal migrants, as well as immigrants who have crossed into the U.S., been detained by the U.S. Border Patrol, and have been repatriated or returned to Mexico.
The bishops distributed health kits to the community and visited a ministry of the Methodist Church of Mexico. Additionally, they joined for a service of Holy Communion and hiked through the Tijuana Estuary, one of the last undeveloped areas in the region. The hike allowed participants to experience a bit of the terrain that immigrants crossing over into the U.S. navigate.
Border community leaders, leaders of the Methodist Church of Mexico, area United Methodists, and news media joined the bishops during the visit.
For more information about The United Methodist Church’s ministries and beliefs regarding immigration, visit umc.org/immigration.
Press release reprinted courtesy of Doreen Gosmire, Associate Director of Communication, Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church