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In Theory: Evangelicals for immigration reform

June 21, 2013
  • Omar Ricci - Board member of the Islamic Center of Southern California, Past Chair of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Police Officer Reserve with the LAPD Counterterrorism / Special Operations Bureau.
Omar Ricci - Board member of the Islamic Center of Southern… (Courtesy of Omar…)

Reforming America's immigration laws to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship has long been seen as a cause championed by liberals.

But now a group that's not exactly known for liberal ideas has joined the call to relax immigration laws: the Southern Baptist Convention. The convention is joining with other evangelical groups to spend $250,000 on a media campaign to support a bill that would allow America's 11 million unauthorized immigrants to apply for citizenship. The bill also would revamp immigration laws. "Our involvement signals the fact that we don't see this as a blue-state, red-state, culture war question," Russell Moore, the new head of the Southern Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said. The convention isn't the only religious group advocating change; the "Nuns On The Bus" have kicked off a nationwide tour to push for the new legislation.

Q. What do you think of evangelicals' efforts to reform immigration laws?

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The reformation of immigration law is a valid concern of the church. In dealing with national policy issues like immigration, it's appropriate to emulate the laws that God gave to Israel, the nation he formed on Earth. God's laws teach us treat immigrants with justice and compassion while at the same time requiring their adherence to our laws.

Immigrants deserve justice: "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him" (Exodus 22:21). In Leviticus 24:22 God said: "There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God." While immigrants should never have the same full rights as citizens, we should guarantee justice for them.

Immigrants deserve compassion: "The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself." (Leviticus 19:34). Gleanings (remnants of the harvest) were to be left for both the needy and the immigrant. The Sabbath rest was guaranteed for immigrants. Compassion for immigrants would be easier when Israel remembered that they themselves had been foreigners in Egypt. "You yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers" (Exodus 23:9).

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