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Immigration issues aren’t just national, as a Tuesday evening July 30 discussion at the First Presbyterian Church in Salida revealed. The community gathering included a discussion about the United States history of immigration and what role the community serves as the country evolves and changes in policy.

The meeting provided a brief history of immigration, supporting materials on resources like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and personal stories from community members who are currently engaged in or previously engaged in the citizenship process.

(Photo by Mitch Lensink for Unsplash)

The evening started with a presentation from the pastor for the First Presbyterian Church, Rev. Tom Abbott. Abbott briefly described the history of the United States Immigration laws, while incorporating supporting scripture.

Among the history of the United States was a breakdown of definitions and data for the words “immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers” in the United States.

“When we think about law, and we think about the debate that is going on right now, there’s a lot of focus on law,” Abbott explained. “When we only focus on law, we move towards oppression, and when we think only about grace, it moves towards chaos. That’s why law and grace have to be put together in a balance that brings health. Both are essential.”

Immigration discussion at the First Presbyterian Church in Salida with Tom Abbott. (Photo by Taylor Sumners)

According to Abbott, 90 passages in the new and old testament address caring for the alien and the stranger, suggesting that the community should be “caretakers, stewards or users of each other.”

Abbott says he hopes that other conversations can be had about this topic in the future, as well as teaching others how to have these types of discussions in the community.

Among the personal stories shared in the meeting, the community learned that not every process is the same for every family or individual looking to gain citizenship. Because every story is different, Abbot says the community needs to be mindful about the words they use when discussing immigration.