From the ELCA
• Called To Be a Public Church: 2008 ELCA Voting and Civic Participation Guide: "It is my hope that this guide" — which includes nonpartisan briefs on current issues, plus tips for electoral activities — "will be a useful tool as you and your congregation wrestle with faithful responses to difficult issues in this election cycle and those to come," said ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson.
• ELCA Message on Immigration: Written in 1998, with an update to be presented to the ELCA Church Council by the end of 2008, this message represents the official ELCA position on the issue, based on biblical teachings. It is designed to encourage reflection and discussion.
• A Faithful Response: A Study for Churches on Welcoming the Stranger: This four-week study curriculum from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is designed to help adults and older teens understand an immigrant's experience.
• Locking up Family Values: LIRS teamed with the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children to examine conditions in two federal detention centers where immigrant families are in custody.
From other groups
• Center for Immigration Studies: This Washington, D.C., think tank, which "seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted" and opposes illegal immigration, offers a variety of publications.
• Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: An August 2007 report from the Office of Immigration Studies, part of the Department of Homeland Security, gives federal data and definitions about unauthorized residents.
• Immigration and America's Future: A New Chapter: The Migration Policy Institute convened a nonpartisan task force headed by former U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton to analyze economic, social and demographic factors of today's illegal and legal immigration; this September 2006 book offers the group's findings and suggestions for an system overhaul.
• Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children: Large-scale work-site raids have increased; this is a study by the National Council of La Raza and the nonpartisan Urban Institute from October 2007 of three communities where raids had occurred and details their impact on children.
• For You Were Once a Stranger: Interfaith Worker Justice is a "network of people of faith ... that helps give voice to low-wage workers." This 2007 handbook is a study guide of research, suggestions for policy and faith perspectives on immigration.
Undocumented immigrants. Illegal aliens. Unauthorized residents. The sometimes politically charged monikers are often the only public names given to the estimated 12 million people living in the U.S. against federal immigration laws. In the shadows, yet equal to about 4 percent of our population, they’re the focus of a considerable amount of energy—both positive and negative—in border states and the interior, in presidential debates and town meetings, in think tanks and living rooms, on airwaves and city streets.
And in Lutheran churches? The position of the ELCA, related organizations like Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and many ELCA members is one of advocacy for undocumented immigrants. But opinions on the issue do vary (somewhat as a reflection of the rest of the country) among ELCA members—from clergy to elected public officials to lay people to academics.
Ultimately, many people want the same goal: to fix a broken federal immigration system while respecting humanity.
The ELCA Message on Immigration states: “Newcomers without legal documents … are among the most vulnerable. Congregations are called to welcome all people, regardless of their legal status.” This resource for congregational deliberation—rather than moral imperative—derives its tenets from the Bible, such as Romans 15:7: “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, a member of Nazareth Lutheran Church, Coulter, Iowa, said: “I have great empathy for people trying to better their lives and take care of their families. But as someone sworn to uphold the Constitution, we can’t ignore the fact that people are breaking national laws by coming into the country without documents.”
Such a dichotomy has been part of Lutheran thinking for centuries. “The notion of caring for people without any discrimination as to their origins, that’s part of the Christian tradition,” said Jean Bethke Elshtain, an ELCA member who is professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago and Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
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