Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Evangelical Lutherans Call for Fair and Just Immigration Reform

Some of you may know that I'm an Ambassador for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The following statement by Hanson and Deffenbaugh spells out in very clear language what I think are excellent immediate and just goals for our immigration and refugee policies. I encourage it to be read widely!


Statement of Mark S. Hanson Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, Jr. President, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

St. Paul calls us to “[W]elcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). Our Lutheran tradition calls on us to uphold the Biblical mandate to welcome the stranger. The Bible teaches us “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19: 33-34).” In Matthew 25, Jesus himself identifies with aliens: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

In difficult and threatening times, churches and all Christians have an obligation to stand with the word of God against those who use fear to deny fundamental human rights and dignity to the stranger in our midst. We, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and the president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), call on all people of faith to oppose attempts at immigration reform as currently proposed.

There are those who may wish to characterize this position as weakening our national vigilance against terrorism; it does not, and it would be wrong to so imply. The ELCA has a very strong statement regarding the threat of terrorism and so advocates, but we believe the current immigration reform effort does not protect this country. Rather, it denies fundamental human rights and limits the ministry of the church to those residing in our land.

We reject “enforcement only” legislation that separates families; that criminalizes undocumented men, women and children; that criminalizes churches, their pastors and lay people who minister to the alien in their communities; that denies a legal path to permanent residence for millions already in the United States working for our companies and businesses; and denies fair treatment for farm workers who provide our daily bread.

We therefore request the following specific changes in legislation presently under consideration:

Oppose the criminalization of the church, its ministers and its members, who provide humanitarian aid to undocumented immigrants. The current criminalization provision provides for seizure of assets used to further these humanitarian acts.

Oppose provisions which criminalize undocumented presence. Such provisions raise punishment of immigration violations out of proportion to the nature of the offense, punishing immigrants who seek only to work or remain with their families with sentences of up to two years. Provisions relating to criminal gangs should be amended to exclude children whose participation is involuntary, or who are fleeing the gangs. Each case must be considered on its own merits.

Provide a path to permanence for individuals currently residing and working in the United States as well as their families. A fair program to bring these individuals out of the shadows and in line to obtain legal status must be a part of any lasting solution as the failure to do so can only result in the creation of a vulnerable permanent underclass, unable to fully participate in society. Essential to such a solution is a worker visa program which unites families and provides an opportunity for workers to earn a permanent place in American society.

Ensure basic constitutional due process rights in the enforcement of our laws. We recognize the need to increase the security of our borders, but we cannot accept the curtailment of fundamental due process rights. Language in the bill would wall off access to the courts in many situations where it is now possible, eliminating checks and balances which form the basis of America’s democracy. Recent decisions by Federal Appeals Courts have shown that judicial review is necessary to ensure the process is functioning properly. Other sections of the bill allow officials to deny benefits or even citizenship based on broad, poorly defined criteria, without recourse to appeal. Detention could be extended almost indefinitely, with little or no opportunity for appeal. Transparency and accountability in decision making has been a touchstone of American government since its founding, and should not be abandoned now.

Include in the legislation the bipartisan “Agricultural Job Opportunities Act” for farm workers, a measure negotiated by growers, agricultural employers and farm workers to create an “earned adjustment” program enabling some undocumented farm workers and H-2A guest workers to obtain temporary immigration status with the possibility of permanence and that revises the existing H-2A worker program.

Finally, we oppose the rush-to-judgment atmosphere that is currently surrounding this issue. Complex language that would affect the lives of millions of people is being discussed in back rooms of Senate chambers, with insufficient time for understanding, public discussion, and reasoned consideration of the consequences.

As members of a church with immigrants, and with roots in immigrant churches in a nation of immigrants, we urge the Congress to make these corrections to the bill, or to reject it.
ELCA Bishops Who Endorse the Statement 3/27/06

ALABAMA - Bishop Ronald B. Warren; ALASKA - Bishop Ronald D. Martinson; ARIZONA - The Rev. Alton Zenker, Interim Synod Bishop; ARKANSAS - Bishop Floyd M. Schoenhals; CALIFORNIA - Bishop Murray D. Finck; Bishop David G. Mullen; Bishop Dean W. Nelson; COLORADO - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; CONNECTICUT - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; DELAWARE - Bishop H. Gerard Knoche; FLORIDA - Bishop Edward R. Benoway; GEORGIA - Bishop Ronald B. Warren; HAWAII- Bishop Murray D. Finck; ILLINOIS - Bishop Warren D. Freiheit; Bishop Paul R. Landahl; Bishop Gary M. Wollersheim; INDIANA - Bishop James R. Stuck; IOWA - Bishop Philip L. Hougen; Bishop Michael A. Last; Bishop Steven L. Ullestad; KANSAS - Bishop Gerald L. Mansholt; KENTUCKY - Bishop James R. Stuck; LOUISIANA - Bishop Paul J. Blom; Bishop Kevin S. Kanouse; MAINE - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; MARYLAND - Bishop Ralph W. Dunkin; Bishop H. Gerard Knoche; Bishop Theodore F. Schneider; MASSACHUSETTS - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; MICHIGAN - Bishop Gary L. Hansen; Bishop John H. K. Schreiber; MINNESOTA - Bishop Jon V. Anderson; Bishop Craig E. Johnson; Bishop Peter Rogness; Bishop Peter Strommen; Bishop Harold L. Usgaard; MISSISSIPPI - Bishop Ronald B. Warren; MISSOURI - Bishop Gerald L. Mansholt; NEBRASKA - Bishop David L. defreeze; NEVADA - Bishop David G. Mullen; The Rev. Alton Zenker, Interim Synod Bishop; NEW HAMPSHIRE - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; NEW JERSEY - Bishop E. Roy Riley; NEW MEXICO - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; NEW YORK - Bishop Stephen P. Bouman; Bishop Marie C. Jerge; Bishop Margaret G. Payne; OHIO - Bishop Marcus C. Lohrmann; Bishop Callon W. Holloway Jr.; OKLAHOMA - Bishop Floyd M. Schoenhals; OREGON - Bishop Paul R. Swanson; PENNSYLVANIA - Bishop Carol S. Hendrix; Bishop Ralph Jones; Bishop A. Donald Main; Bishop Donald J. McCoid; Bishop Gregory R. Pile; Bishop David R. Strobel; RHODE ISLAND - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; SOUTH CAROLINA - Bishop David A. Donges; TENNESSEE - Bishop Ronald B. Warren; TEXAS - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; Bishop Paul J. Blom; Bishop Kevin S. Kanouse; Bishop Ray Tiemann; UTAH - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; VERMONT - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; VIRGINIA - Bishop James F. Mauney; Bishop Theodore F. Schneider; WASHINGTON - Bishop Wm. Chris Boerger; Bishop Robert D. Hofstad; WASHINGTON D.C. - Bishop Theodore F. Schneider; WEST VIRGINIA - Bishop Ralph W. Dunkin; WISCONSIN - Bishop George G. Carlson; Bishop James A. Justman; Bishop Paul W. Stumme-Diers; Bishop April Ulring Larson; WYOMING - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; BAHAMAS - Bishop Edward R. Benoway; PUERTO RICO - Bishop Margarita Martínez; U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - Bishop Margarita Martínez

[editorial note: some synods cover more than one state/area; some states have more than one synod]


  1. 1. Enforcing our immigration laws doesn't "deny fundamental human rights and dignity to the stranger in our midst" and there are no mainstream sources who want to deny illegal aliens their "fundamental human rights".

    2. Even Mahonney admits that he exagerated about his claims that 44437 would criminalize soup kitchens et al. Various lawyers have already pointed out similar lies from far-left sources, perhaps you should do some research first.

    3. You don't want to separate families and you favor amnesty, which leads me to suspect that you would support giving amnesty to any illegal alien (and their families) who could make it over the border. In other words, it sounds like you're supporting a rather porous border: anyone who can come here gets to stay.

    4. It's possible to oppose certain provisions of bills without opposing all parts of the bills, and doing so makes me think that you don't support what the bills are generally designed to do.

    Overall, I find your position childlike and completely ignorant of everything involved in illegal immigration. For instance, does your church support joining the U.S., Canada, and Mexico into an EU-style superstate (see for the precursor)? Do you support the Mexican government sending us their potentional revolutionaries and getting remittances in return? If not, I don't see anything in there about that.

    Is depriving Mexico of the workers it needs to build its society really "humanitarian"? What about encouraging border deaths by proposing an amnesty that will only encourage future illegal immigration?

    I don't see anything in there opposing the political corruption that illegal immigration leads to.

    I don't see anything about opposing those separatist forces that support massive illegal immigration.

    I'd suggest doing quite a bit more study about this and trying to deal with everything involved in this issue.

    You can start here:

  2. Clearly, Lonewacko doesn’t get the point that Christians are obliged to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. And “childlike” faith in Christ and God’s reign is precisely what is expected of us. (Luke 18:17)

  3. A couple of clarifications. First of all, this statement is written by the bishop of the ELCA, as well as the president of LIRS. LIRS is the 2nd largest refugee resettlement organization in the U.S. If these two people are "far-left", then I have no idea what chart they're "far-left" on.

    Second, it seems to be a common argumentative tactic to call others liars, when in fact even if they are mistaken, that is different than saying they lie. If they're mistaken, fine, prove it. I don't think they are. But misunderstanding or interpreting differently is categorically different than lying.

    Finally, apparently "doing more study" means reading what lonewhacko has written. No thank you. I'd much prefer to take the advice and reflections of persons in the public sector who serve refugees and immigrants on a daily basis, and are in regular contact and conversation with our political leaders. I don't claim to be an "expert", but I do believe that this statement is both faithful and politically learned.

  4. Anonymous9:12 AM

    It's interesting that the Bishop quotes scripture to support his claims. I wonder how he would interpert Romans 13 where Paaul teaches us to respect authority, regardless of what they do. I am also intrigued that the Bishop would quote Leviticus. I wonder how he would respond to Lev. 18:22 in light of the current movement in the ELCA regarding gays? I would hope, as a spiritual leader, that he would be consistant in his beliefs. I day all of this with tongue in cheek, knowing how far left of Martin Luther's teaching the current leadership has strayed. They will continue to pick and choose scripture to fit thier needs while discarding the rest.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    Romans 13 isn't so simple a passage as you claim, especially read in the context of Romans as whole. As one simple example, the 1st sentence reads, "be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God." In a democracy, there are clear elected leaders (authority), but they govern at the election and continuing conversation with those they govern. So, a statement like the one printed here is itself a part of the "authority" raised up by Paul.

    As for Lev. 18:22, this seems a simple issue as well, especially in ilght of the clear trajectory of tradition and Scripture. Even within the Biblical witness, there are portions of "the law" that are picked up and carried forward, and others that are not. You are correct, Leviticus needs to be read in the context of all that follows- so for example, dietary laws found in Leviticus are not followed by Christians, and this because of Peter's experience (dream?) in Acts, and the subsequent change in dietary practices of the early Jews who followed Christ. But there are other parts of the moral code in Leviticus that were carried forward and continued to be lifted up by the prophets and the early church. Care for the resident alien in our midst is one such Levitical admonition.