Local Voices Urge Honest Conversation on Immigration
February 25, 2016
Texas Faith Leaders Send Letter to Candidates
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Local leaders from Super Tuesday states Texas and Georgia are urging candidates to have an honest conversation on immigration.
In anticipation of tonight’s GOP debate in Houston, 24 faith leader from across Texas addressed a letter to presidential candidates, urging compassion for immigrants.
“Immigrants are not only our co-workers but also our neighbors, friends and members of our church family,” the letter reads. “Having lived and worshiped together, we know them to be vital members of our community. When our immigrant neighbors are attacked with harsh rhetoric, their pain is also our pain. Scripture guides us toward a just and compassionate response to immigrants in our country. We encourage you to heed its words and get to know our communities.
Meanwhile in Georgia, Atlanta area faith, law enforcement and business leaders joined a roundtable yesterday to underscore the biblical call to welcome the stranger, the importance of trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement and the economic value that immigrants bring to their communities.
“You can make a case against immigration if you want, but you can’t use the Bible to do it,” Dr. Melissa Browning, Visiting Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry, McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. “Christian scriptures clearly state — from the Old Testament to the New Testament — that the priority is to welcome the migrant.”
“Community relations improve when the police gets involved,” added Officer Miguel Lugo, Atlanta Police Department. “Crime affects all the communities around it. We have to build trust with immigrants and work hand-in-hand. Once that trust is built, we cannot break that trust and start from scratch. We have a commitment to our communities and to our citizens that we are here to serve them. Immigrants have these same rights and we are here to protect them.”
“Previously, I had been basing my concept of justice not on God and his word, but on laws that were created by men,” said Joshua Sieweke, Director of World Relief, Atlanta. “Sometimes those law created by men do coincide with God’s justice in Scripture, but often they don’t. It is possible for us to create laws that are not just, but thankfully, we live in a country where we can advocate for their change.”
“The U.S. population is aging. The only way we’re going to stay competitive is through immigration,” added Eliezer Vélez, Managing Director of Youth Programs, Latin American Association. “In order to stay competitive worldwide, we need to bring in these new demographics.”
Local leaders will continue to come together at “America Is Better: Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform” events next week in Dallas; Orlando; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Holland, Mich.
“Regardless of what we’re hearing from leaders on the ground, some candidates still seem determined to overlook what local voices have to say about immigration,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “Across the country, local leaders are underscoring the important role immigrants play in their communities and calling for a national conversation that confronts the realities of our current immigration system and the implications of candidates’ policy recommendations.
“We need our candidates to recognize that America is better when we embrace the contributions of immigrants and give them the opportunities, skills and status they need to succeed.”