Evangelical Christian Coalition Criticizes U.S. Immigration Policy, Encourages 'Biblical View' of Immigrants

An Evangelical coalition has released an e-book criticizing the nation's immigration policy, calling for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and encouraging Christians to adopt a "biblical view."

Thinking Biblically about Immigrants & Immigration Reform,​ which was released by the Evangelical Immigration Table last week, quotes various passages of scripture to advocate compassion for immigrants and a pathway to citizenship. The text emphasizes balancing respect for the rule of law with the importance of keeping families together.

"I think that evangelicals have a nuanced view on immigration policy," Matthew Soerens, the National Coordinator at the Evangelical Immigration Table, told Newsweek. "Most do believe it's appropriate and right to have secure borders. That's something we affirm. We think the rule of law is important...but the majority of evangelicals are very clear on saying 'we want to keep families together.'"

Soerens emphasized that the evangelical community both wanted "secure borders" and did not support separating parents and children. A 2015 poll from LifeWay research found that 68 percent of evangelicals supported increasing border security and providing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who pay a fine, pass a criminal background check and complete undefined "other requirements."

He noted that the values advocated in the text mirror those espoused in the Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform, which was put forth by EIT in 2012.

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Border Patrol agents are pictured detaining and processing a group of migrants near the Paso Del Norte International Bridge connecting the US-Mexico border cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images

The e-book notes various stories of forced migration included in the Bible. It calls for reform of immigration law, saying "the best way forward—both to respect the law and to keep families together—is to have an earned legalization process, which includes the payment of a monetary fine as restitution for adults who willfully violated U.S. immigration laws."

"When people take time to study the Bible, they come to see immigrants as fellow human beings made in God's image, and they are less susceptible to political demagoguery on the immigration issue," Galen Carey, the vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, told Newsweek in an email.

Leaders from EIT expressed concern about President Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy in a letter last year, which emphasized the importance of family and said that the effects of separating children from their parents "could be devastating and long-lasting."

Despite the prior evangelical criticism of Trump's immigration stance, Carey told Newsweek the book was not a criticism of just the Trump administration. "It calls for reform of immigration law, saying "the best way forward—both to respect the law and to keep families together—is to have an earned legalization process, which includes the payment of a monetary fine as restitution for adults who willfully violated U.S. immigration laws," he said in an email.

In spite of concerns over the immigration policy, the evangelical community has remained a strong bastion of support for the president. At the beginning of Trump's presidency, 78 percent of white evangelicals said they approved of the way he was handling his position. That number has slipped somewhat but still rests at 69 percent, according to a Pew Research Center poll, which measured through January.

Evangelical Christian Coalition Criticizes U.S. Immigration Policy, Encourages 'Biblical View' of Immigrants | U.S.