Evangelicals: We will denounce those that block immigration reform

“We are announcing the Gospel that welcomes the stranger and we will denounce those that block immigration reform.” Some would … Continued

“We are announcing the Gospel that welcomes the stranger and we will denounce those that block immigration reform.”

Some would call them fighting words; others, a declaration of faith. They rang out recently within shouting distance of the U.S. House of Representatives, at the church where I serve as pastor, as over 300 leaders gathered for the “Evangelical Immigration Table Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform.”

House leaders of both parties would have done well to come witness the breadth and depth of support for immigration reform: Pentecostals and Baptists; Mega-church leaders and small congregation ministers: Republicans and Democrats; natives of Arizona, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, and other states; and African Americans, Whites, Cuban Americans and other Latinos born and raised in the United States.

White people and African Americans at the gathering told how they’ve been converted by experiences with Christ present in immigrants and their families. Immigrants told how they are making compacts across religious, ethnic, and political lines to work for justice and end the cruelty perpetrated by the U.S. immigration system. “Cruelty” was the exact word used, and correctly, given the scale of U.S. deportations and detentions that are tearing apart families—mother from child, husband from wife, sister from brother.

Our meeting at the church was one of many events across the country showing that Christians — evangelicals, Roman Catholics and mainline — are united and urgently calling for immigration reform that preserves families from detentions, deportations, and other forms of separation. We stand together, with our allies of many faiths, for reform that includes a roadmap to earned citizenship for 11 million aspiring new Americans.

Yet, it’s questionable to me whether enough U.S. representatives are tuned in to the voices of Americans. This is particularly true when I consider the lengths to which some members of the House are going to obstruct progress toward comprehensive immigration reform. In fact, the House is taking a piecemeal approach to reform, one that stands in disgraceful contrast to the comprehensive reform bill, S.744, passed by the Senate last month.

To pick just one example, the House Committee on the Judiciary recently passed H.R. 2278, which has been hypocritically labeled the “SAFE” Act. This bill would expand the role of state and local law enforcement in immigration enforcement and would widen immigration detention, including detention of torture survivors, asylum seekers, and other vulnerable groups seeking protection. The bill is one of several that House members are putting forward in a transparent effort to stymie real reform.

Evangelical leaders deeply understand the life of undocumented immigrants, the suffering of immigrant families, and the harm that a broken and cruel immigration system perpetrates on our nation. We also understand the political realities of Congress and the risks of courageous leadership. But God’s work through the immigrant community has convinced us that evangelical Christians, together with our allies of all faiths, must advocate and hold U.S. representatives accountable if they do not take this opportunity to make the immigration system just and humane.

“We are announcing the Gospel that welcomes the stranger and we will denounce those that block immigration reform.”

The Rev. Michael Wilker, senior pastor of Church of the Reformation, has served ministries in rural California, suburban New York, and in the center of Washington, DC. He is a member of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service National Leadership Summit.

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