This week, bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) sent two letters to Congress and the Administration in support of fair and humane immigration policies. The first, sent by Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, relays the results of an ELCA Churchwide assembly vote that overwhelmingly supported comprehensive immigration reform and the passage of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrant youth a chance to pursue their education. The letter affirmed a biblical call to hospitality and the willingness of the ELCA to “roll up our sleeves and work tirelessly until this nation is once again a place of welcome and justice for newcomers.”
The second letter, signed by 58 ELCA synodical bishops, also spoke out in favor of a comprehensive overhaul of federal immigration laws and expressed concern about recent decisions in many states to restrict the rights of immigrants. Compelled by the moral and practical implications of new restrictive state immigration laws passed in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah, the bishops affirmed that the fair treatment of immigrants is a core religious value and that welcoming strangers is welcoming children of God:
We are therefore concerned that these new state laws damage the social fabric of our communities, thus weakening the trust residents have with local and state police and putting families at risk of being torn apart. We are particularly troubled by the laws which would criminalize churches, church ministries, and church members that serve all people who need assistance – regardless of their immigration status.