Churches take stand on immigration

By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

A new coalition of more than 100 evangelical Christian organizations is finally stepping up to say what the Catholic church has being saying all along: Show compassion for our neighbors, the weak, and the alien.

According to the New York Times, evangelical leaders are making increasingly visible efforts to push for what they call a more humane immigration policy. This is in keeping with Biblical scriptures of showing compassion for our neighbors, the weak, and the alien. Perhaps they were moved to speak up after seeing televised images of peaceful protesters being shot at with rubber bullets by Los Angeles police during a May Day immigration rally?

CNN’s Lou Dobbs says religion and politics shouldn’t mix, when it comes to the Catholic church and immigration anyway. Why doesn’t he say this about abortion and other churches’ involvement with as much vehemence?

As much as we may try to politicize the immigration issue, anyone who calls themself a Christian must make it an issue of humanity first. So although this group of evangelicals are late getting into the game, better late than never. Perhaps the timing was right.

This Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform asked Congress on Monday to pass bills to strengthen our border controls, which I agree are needed. But they also asked to give illegal immigrants ways to gain legal residency, and most importantly, to stop the needless and inhumane splitting of families.

Members of the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform include the Mennonite Church U.S.A., and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Supporters include Dr. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of a megachurch in Florida, and Sammy Mah, president of World Relief, a group affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals. The Rev. Joel Osteen, whose television ministry reaches millions, is also speaking out for “compassionate changes.”

The Rev. Jim Wallis, president of a liberal evangelical group, Call to Renewal, says, “Immigration, for us, is a religious issue, a Biblical issue. We call it welcoming the stranger.”

While churches risk taking a position their members may not agree with, John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum said, “Given the efforts that evangelicals have been making to reach out to Asians and Hispanic immigrants, if they remain silent, they are great risks as well.”

Cardinal Roger Mahony has been an outspoken advocate for the humane treatment of immigrants since his 1962 ordination. In a letter to President Bush, he quoted Matthew 25:31-46: “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father … For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me …’

“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you …’

“And the king will say in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at:
helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com