Lutherans Call for "Comprehensive Approach Toward Loving Our Neighbor" in Immigration Debate

September 14, 2006

Source: Spero News

On September 14, 2006 Spero News reported, "Several religious leaders called on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform -- not just 'enforcement only' legislation -- in a national conference call Sept. 12 with news reporters. One of the speakers was the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr., president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Baltimore, hosted the conference call of interfaith leaders. LIRS is a cooperative agency of the ELCA, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In December 2005 the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that emphasizes enforcement of immigration laws and border security, and would make it a criminal offense to aid a person who is in the United States illegally. In June the U.S. Senate approved a bill that would provide for a more 'comprehensive' approach to immigration reform. That legislation, favored by U.S. President George W. Bush, would provide for border security and enforcement while protecting workers' rights and making it possible for undocumented workers to seek legal status or to eventually become U.S. citizens. Members of both houses must agree on a compromise proposal. It seems unlikely that Congress will conclude its work on immigration before the new Congress convenes in 2007, Deffenbaugh said. Calling immigration 'a contentious issue' in the United States and the world, Deffenbaugh said immigrants 'are people, not statistics,' created in the image of God. In commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Bouman noted that New Yorkers and others depended on the goodwill of people around the world for healing. 'Immigrants are in our congregations. The Bible is clear about welcoming the stranger,' he said. Bouman called enforcement-only legislation 'fool's gold' that only distracts from the broken policy beneath it, he said. 'From my heart, we are calling -- I am calling -- for a comprehensive approach toward loving our neighbor,' Bouman said."