It has been truly stunning (and inspiring) to see massive protests erupt across the United States in opposition to draconian immigration legislation being proposed in the United States Congress. Over 500,000 people marched in Los Angeles this weekend.
Like with Iraq, there is great unity in the Christian community opposing these moves in Congress. HR 4437, the anti-immigrant legislation passed in the US House of Representatives, is opposed by both leading Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders. Click here to learn more about this legislation and click here for an action alert from Church World Service asking the US Senate to oppose the House legislation.
Many conservative political leaders hope to use immigration as a wedge issue in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
Here are a few of the statements issued by religious leaders on immigration in recent weeks:
There are several reasons the Catholic Church is involved in the immigration debate. The Old and New Testaments, as well as the encyclicals of the Popes, form the basis for the Church's position. In Gospel of Matthew, Jesus calls upon us to "welcome the stranger," for "what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me. " (Mt. 25-35, 40). The Church also is involved in the issue because many of the Catholic faithful are immigrants who need the support and assistance of the Church. Finally, the U.S. bishops believe that our current immigration system is not good for our nation and contributes to the human suffering of migrants. Thus, they seek to point out the moral consequences of a broken system.
In our policy on immigration, the National Council of Churches USA -- which represents 35 member denominations with more than 45 million adherents -- clearly states that under God, persons and nations are responsible to each other and for the welfare of all humanity. God mandates the Israelites in the Book of Exodus to "neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."
As Christians we believe that we are called to advocate for policies and mindsets that do not foster hate and perpetuate fear and discrimination. That is why we strongly urge Congress and the President to pass comprehensive immigration reform that upholds the dignity of all people and reflects the principles for which our nation was founded. Except for Native Americans, who were here when the boat landed, and African Americans who were brought here on slave ships, and Mexicans who were the original inhabitants of most of the Southwest, once, we, too, were strangers in this land.
The Bible teaches us that we have all been created in the image of God and God expresses love and concern for all of humanity -- the condition of our lives as well as the condition of our souls. Developing policies based on hate and fear of those who do not look like us -- but, are nevertheless created in the image of God -- is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bad public policy.
The Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform calls upon President George W. Bush and Members of the Senate to enact legislation that will address all facets and dimensions of the immigration issue. Our concerns stems from the immigration legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives and the subsequent proposals currently in the Senate.
As Hispanic Evangelical leaders we are concerned with the security of our nation and the simultaneous well being of our immigrant families of which the majority is of Latin American descent. We support immigration reform based on our Judeo/Christian value system that empowered this nation of immigrants to thrive while preserving standards of compassion and humane treatment to all who seek a better life
The Hispanic Evangelical church consists of approximately 20 million Hispanics in America. We wholeheartedly understand the legal, moral and political juxtaposition surrounding this issue. However, we believe that we can protect our borders, implement current immigration laws and present a viable solution to the undocumented immigrants currently in our nation within the framework of Biblical mandates and our Judeo/Christian Value System.
As American Jews, we recognize the need for a generous, fair and non-discriminatory immigration policy. For over 350 years, Jews have sought freedom and opportunity on America's shores, and many continue to do so today. As a community, we are especially aware that generous immigration policies have benefited Jews fleeing persecution and economic hardship, and we remember painfully the times when these policies have been unfairly restrictive. Having struggled to adjust to a society that did not always welcome our arrival, we understand some of the challenges faced by today's immigrants as well as the need for a firm commitment to our nation's security.
In addition to our historic experience, our tradition also demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. The Torah contains over 36 references to this principle, including Leviticus' command, "When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" [19:33-34]. Throughout two millennia of diaspora and disenfranchisement, Jews have clung to this principle, which permeates not only our religious tradition but the American legal tradition as well.
As both Americans and Jews, we keep this principle in mind as we face the reality of the eight to twelve million undocumented migrants currently living in the United States, and the hundreds of thousands attempting to come each year. Experience has shown that tightening security at the border alone will not work, as long as thousands of people are still desperate to enter this country to work or to be reunited with loved ones. We need real solutions to the problems that plague our nation's immigration system, not just cosmetic fixes.
What would those solutions entail? Like many others in the faith community, as well as members of the labor, business, and legal communities, we believe that a program of earned legalization for undocumented migrants already living in the U.S. would provide an appropriate alternative to programs aimed primarily at detaining and deporting eight to twelve million people.
Add your voice to this growing chorus.