Press Room

Washington, DC, December 12, 2005

Arizona Major State Day

Arizona Church Leader Calls For Immigration Reform at Washington National Cathedral

Back to Press Releases »

WASHINGTON – An Arizona church leader speaking at a Dec. 11 service at Washington National Cathedral blamed global economic forces and U.S. border policies for the deaths of migrants trying to enter the United States.

At a special Arizona worship service marking the Advent season, the Rev. Elder Rick Ufford-Chase of Tucson, moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, called on churches to speak out louder on behalf of poor people “who don’t have the basic security and ability to survive that comes from a passport” from an industrialized nation.

“Our state is today at the focal point of a federal policy of exclusion and death that is absolutely antithetical to the fundamental values of the Christmas story,” Ufford-Chase said. “Democratic and Republican administrations alike have embraced trade and immigration policies that make the migrant journey to the U.S.-Mexico border inevitable and ensure that the number of those dying in the desert will climb year after year after year.

“People dying in our desert is no accident, it is the foreseeable result of an enforcement strategy designed to push them further and further into danger and to make examples of them to convince others not to come,” Ufford-Chase said.

More than 500 worshipers recognized the state of Arizona and its people at Arizona Day at Washington National Cathedral, including several dozen who traveled from the Grand Canyon State.

Arizonans played key roles at the 11 a.m. service at the landmark cathedral, the sixth-largest in the world. The cathedral singles out a state each month for special prayer, inviting worshipers of all faiths to take part.

The Right Rev. Kirk Stevan Smith, bishop of the Phoenix-based Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, was lead celebrant. The Rev. Bill Greeley, interim dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, participated, as did the Rev. Frances Ryan of Flagstaff, a regional leader of the National Cathedral Association. Mark Towsley, communications officer for the Diocese of Arizona, read Scripture.

Washington National Cathedral, in seeking to fulfill its outreach mission to all faiths, sets aside one major state day each month. The National Cathedral Association organized the Arizona event, inviting religious and political leaders and parishioners from around the state to take part in the 11 a.m. service. The National Cathedral Association has more than 13,000 members from denominations in every state.

Ufford-Chase delivered his sermon from the Canterbury Pulpit, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his final Sunday sermon. Ufford-Chase has worked along the U.S.-Mexico border for 15 years and is co-founder and co-director of BorderLinks, an organization that focuses on Mexican border communities and the concerns of migrants. He also is founder of The Samaritans, a faith-based desert search and rescue organization offering aid to migrants at risk.

“In 1995 we did not have a single recorded death of a person without documents who was trying to get across our border in Arizona,” he said. “The last 10 years, the number of deaths has climbed every single year.

“Good folks attempting to come into jobs that few people dispute we need them for are dying in the most brutal way imaginable in the desert,” he said, adding last year the number of deaths was 250 “that we know of.”

Ufford-Chase urged adoption of U.S. immigration policies that offer legalization “for anyone willing to work in order to provide for his or her family.”

“We must continually call our political leaders, whoever they may be, back to the fundamental values that offer genuine and lasting security, the kind of security that happens only when we become a welcoming and beloved community of God,” he said.


ATTN PRINT MEDIA: If you desire e-mail transmission of this account and/or photos sent as JPEG attachments please contact Elizabeth Mullen at the number above. Available on the web site are print-quality photos of Washington National Cathedral (“Photos for Print” under “News” at

SOURCE: Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral