The church and undocumented residents

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

July 20, 2012 at 2:20 a.m.

The United States Supreme Court upheld part of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 three weeks ago, that allows police officials to inquire about the immigration statuses of people they stop.

The controversial legislation continues to be hotly debated nationwide, especially among Christians.

Some are calling the legislation unconstitutional because of its ability to infringe on the rights of legal Americans, while others support the legislation, saying it will help limit the number of undocumented residents living and working in the state.

In Texas, an estimated 1.4 million undocumented residents are reported to reside in the state, according to the fiscal 2005 records generated by the Office of the Texas Comptroller.

Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, reported undocumented residents contributed to the production of $1.58 billion in state revenues that year, yet cost local governments $1.44 billion in uncompensated health care and law enforcement fees not covered by the state.

In places of worship, it may be unclear what guidance church leaders should offer for congregation members with an illegal citizenship status.

Here's what a few area pastors say about the topic.

Leviticus 19:33

"When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

Exodus 22:21-23

"Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt."

Deuteronomy 27:19

"Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow."

The Rev. Bill Hassel,

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

"No doubt that Christ welcomed all people, including illegal immigrants of his day, like the Samaritans. He healed them talked with them, even a Samaritan woman. Jesus was an illegal immigrant himself when he traveled to Galilee, Nazareth, crossing the Sea of Galilee, preaching, healing and eating with them.

Therefore, any Christian is compelled to welcome illegal immigrants, and the like, in Church. The ELCA is on record for "Immigration Reform," as our present system is broken, needs fixing and is not fair to all concerned, even the citizens of USA ... Sadly our legislative, presidential, and judicial branches of our government is more interested in partisan politics than "Under God and justice for all."

The Rev. Dave King,

First United Methodist Church

"How many times did God, through Moses, instruct the Israelites to treat the foreigners well, and to remember that they were once foreigners too? And if you look at the United States, we're all immigrants. We are already benefiting from millions of illegal and legal immigrants, and if we were to suddenly remove them, our economy would suffer tremendously. The construction, agricultural, and hospitality businesses would all collapse if you were to remove all the illegal immigrants that worked for them. In the Methodist church, we want them to be treated justly and compassionately: love your neighbor as you love yourself."

he Rev. Stan De Boe,

Our Lady of Sorrows

"We're for immigration reform in the Catholic church - and it's very biblical. One of the groups we're supposed to protect is the foreigners, and the Catholic church has continued that tradition. What we hope for them is that they can be here and have their statuses approved, so they can become active, participating residents of our community, more so than they already are. I'm sure we have (undocumented residents) in our church, but I wouldn't know who they are because we don't ask. Our doors are open to all."

Romans 13:1-2

"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

1 Peter 2:13-14

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority, whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right."

The Rev. Debra Cantu,

Centro de Alabanza Church

"We welcome everyone into our church, and we don't have the right to ask them "Are you legal?" We don't ask where they're from, we minister to everyone. But if someone came to me to discuss their illegal citizenship status, I would tell them to get themselves legal. If they've been here awhile, I'd tell them to get legal advice and that we're not going to abandon them. We believe in legalities. You can't sin and win. When you're doing something against the law, it's going to catch up with you."

The Rev. Mike Malone,

Fellowship Bible Church

"Our policy is, we welcome anyone. If someone in our church were here illegally, we would help them explain their situation to the authorities. We're a country of law, that's what it's here for. (The Old Testament) law was referring to a theocracy, or God's law, it wasn't referring to a democratic nation."



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