Conservative Local Leaders in the Southeast Stress Need for Productive Immigration Conversation

Digital and Design Associate

August 4, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With immigration remaining a subject for political point-scoring this election year, conservative faith, law enforcement and business leaders in the Southeast remain focused on the need for a more productive conversation.

Their remarks are in keeping with a July Gallup poll in which more than three-quarters of Republican respondents favored the opportunity to earn citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

“Local business, law enforcement and faith leaders across the country are speaking out for the contributions of immigrants and the need for a better conversation around immigration,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “We need to address our broken immigration system in a way that best serves our country’s communities, families and economy. Taking into account what local leaders have to say is the first step toward starting this dialogue.”

The following are quotes from local leaders in the region:

William Burton, Ethnic Church Planting/Evangelism Specialist, Tennessee Baptist Convention:
“As New Testament, Great Commission Christians, the only way we can see the immigrant communities in America is God making ‘foreign missions … home missions’ for the church. What an awesome opportunity we have to impact the nations of the world, and we do not even need to board a plane! This is the opportunity for the Church of God to advance the Kingdom of God for the Glory of God.”

Joe Elmore, Lead Pastor, Belmont Baptist Church, Roanoke, Virginia:
“The Gospel knows no distinction when reaching to men, women, boys and girls. As Christians we are sojourners whose citizenship is in heaven. What an opportunity to see heaven’s reflection on earth with people from every tribe and nation.

“Immigration provides the church with an opportunity to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth in our own neighborhoods. ‘Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’ (Zechariah 7:10 ESV)”

Craig Greatman, Lead Pastor, Gospel Life Church, Palm Bay, Florida:
“A nation within the current global climate that is capable of welcoming and serving as well as being founded upon the will and labor of immigrants must continue to address immigration policies in such a way as to lead the world. And the church in such a nation will give account to G-d for how they have either led the way to freedom or abdicated their responsibility.”

Dr. Arnold Hite, Professor of Economics, Charleston Southern University, North Charleston, South Carolina:
“Nothing is more fundamental to a civilized society than the principle of treating your neighbor like you want to be treated. The current unworkable, unenforceable and unfair immigration policies violate this fundamental principle.

“Ultimately the conversation should be about ethics.  But, many have hearts hardened by the fear of lost jobs. This fear is unfounded. Immigrants don’t just bring new skills to the labor market. They increase demand for thousands of products and services. There is no statistical relationship between the unemployment rate and the number of foreign workers entering the labor force.”

Rev. Brian Miller, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Montgomery, Alabama:
“My evangelical faith is built on the understanding that all humans are created in the image of God, that all are stained by brokenness, and that through Christ all may experience redemption. Our current conversation on immigration doesn’t reflect this foundational hope. When Jesus speaks with the woman at the well, when Elijah revives the widow of Zeraphath’s son, when Elisha heals Naaman, we are shown humble ways to approach the other. Perhaps, our biblical faith can be more explicitly a part of the conversation.”

Frank Snowden, Snowden Law Firm, Montgomery, Alabama:
“I believe in America and American values. Those values, born of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, have made America the unquestioned world leader in humanitarian rights.

“As such, I cannot possibly reconcile these values with any immigration policy that excludes any person or member of any race from having a right to flee oppression, cruelty, violence and other form of inhumane treatment or condition and be able to safely, legally and reasonably take refuge in America.

“I further believe that the conversation must start with an understanding that everyone is a human being and has equal protection under the laws of this land, regardless of that person’s birth right or country of origin.”