Like the secular “open borders lobby” generally, religious leftists have traditionally sought to weaken -- and even eliminate -- many regulations and controls on immigration into the United States. Blurring the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, these groups depict any calls for the strict enforcement of immigration laws as expressions of racism, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia. While sharing all the major goals of the open-borders lobby generally, the religious left goes a step further by incorporating also a spiritual dimension into its activism – emphasizing that in God's eyes no person is “illegal,” and claiming that Christian ethics require that all immigrants – regardless of legal status – should be welcomed with warmth, hospitality, and compassion. The “sanctuary” policies that many large cities (and some small towns) have adopted to protect illegal immigrants from law-enforcement authorities, drew their original inspiration from churches that provided aid to illegal aliens who had fled from the civil wars that raged in their homelands (Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala) during the 1980s.
A noteworthy mouthpiece of the religious left's position on illegal immigration was the former president of the National Council of Churches, the late Methodist minister Robert Edgar, who denounced advocates of immigration-law-enforcement as "fear mongers" who "have used nearly every scare tactic they can think of to reduce us to a highly suspicious lot all too willing to not love the alien as ourselves and to evict them from their homes, get them fired, separate them from their families, in an all-out rampage of oppression and prejudice." Citing Leviticus’s warning that “you shall not oppress the alien,” Edgar asserted that immigrants had become the “contemporary scapegoat” for Americans who harbored "racism" in their hearts. “Demagogues keep preying on post-9/11 fear to whip up hatred and suspicion of people who have come here in search of the same thing my northern European ancestors were seeking,” added Edgar.
In 2007 Jim Wallis, founder of the Christian evangelical ministry Sojourners, helped lead a religious coalition that asked Congress to reduce the waiting times for people seeking legal residency; to help illegal aliens reunite with their families; and to create a “path toward citizenship” for all illegals residing in the United States. Said Wallis: “Immigration is for us a religious issue. It's what God wants and expects.... Immigration policy is clearly broken and must be fixed. So let's fix it, but with compassion. The Bible tells us again and again about the need to care for the stranger in our midst."
Joining Wallis in this coalition was Rev. Dan Soliday, CEO of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, who called on lawmakers “to create an immigration policy characteristic of a faithful people – compassionate, just, respectful of human dignity and valuing family bonds.” Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, concurred: “We believe that Congress can pass legislation that treats the immigrant in a humane manner and applies the rule of law.... At the end of the day, how we deal with the immigrant is a diagnostic of the spiritual health of our nation.” “Churches across this country are preparing to provide sanctuary for those seeking protection from egregious actions against their welfare and families,” Rodriguez added.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) embodies faithfully the religious left's position on most immigration-related matters. Strongly opposing laws that would apprehend and punish illegal immigrants in the United States, AFSC denounced Operation Gatekeeper, a government initiative that aimed to secure -- by means of increased border patrol agents and fencing -- the San Diego border with Mexico, which was once the busiest illegal-alien crossing point into America. By AFSC's reckoning, such measures constitute “brutal” affronts to “the rights and dignity” of “undocumented” immigrants. AFSC has posted on its website a detailed list of strategies by which illegal aliens can evade interrogation, detention, or arrest by immigration authorities or police.
According to the National Council of Churches (NCC), “comprehensive immigration reform” – i.e., a pathway to amnesty and citizenship for the millions of illegals currently residing in the United States – is both a “divine mandate” and a “patriotic act.”
Pax Christi USA (PCUSA) has launched a project called the People's Peace Initiative, which condemns “the suffering and death happening at the U.S.-Mexico border” when would-be illegal border-crossers occasionally succumb to the desert heat. In PCUSA's calculus, the migrations of impoverished Central Americans into the U.S. are no less morally justifiable than the relocations of “Appalachian … mountain people forced to leave their homes in search of work.” PCUSA endorses the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, which favors amnesty for illegal aliens and policy reforms to diminish or eliminate future restrictions on immigration. Moreover, PCUSA has given its organizational endorsement to “Justice for Immigrants: A Journey of Hope” – an initiative that seeks to bring about “a broad-based legalization of the undocumented of all nationalities”; “allow family members [of illegal aliens] to reunite with loved ones in the United States”; end “the border 'blockade' enforcement strategy”; and restore “due process protections for [illegal] immigrants.”
The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) maintain a seasonal presence along the Arizona / Mexico border, where they conduct “a campaign to challenge U.S. immigration policies that result in hundreds of migrant deaths in the desert every summer.” CPT team members “[hold] cross-border prayer vigils, remain alert to vigilante threats, and monitor border-patrol officers' treatment of migrants.” This campaign is conducted in close cooperation with the open-borders organization No More Deaths. On its website, CPT encouragesAmerican churches to help illegal aliens hide from immigration authorities.
This section of Discover The Networks examines the immigration-related objectives and activities of these and many other luminaries of the religious left.