Just days before Iowa voters kick off the first-in-the-nation presidential contest, evangelical leaders published an open letter urging 2016 hopefuls to approach the issue of immigration from a stance of compassion and love based on Biblical teachings.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump has made anti-immigrant rhetoric a focal point in his campaign, while Republican candidates like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have taken a hardline stance on immigration reform.
In response, five national evangelical leaders and 32 Iowa signatories sent a message to all the candidates on Wednesday encouraging them to be compassionate towards immigrants and refugees, as guided by Scripture.
“Scripture teaches us that every human being is made in God’s image and is endowed with inherent dignity and potential to flourish. All people, including immigrants, deserve respect,” reads the letter, which was published on the Des Moines Register’s Caucuses page.
“Jesus demonstrated high regard for foreigners in his teaching and actions, and identified himself with the stranger in Matthew 25. We recognize that immigrants can be agents of blessings to their receiving communities as well,” it states.
The Christian leaders also say another reason immigrants should be welcomed and treated humanely is because of their contributions to the local economy within the early-voting state.
“In Iowa alone, Asian- and Latino-owned businesses employ thousands and contribute more than $1 billion annually to the economy. Immigrants are also key to the agricultural sector, which makes up more than 25 percent of Iowa’s economy,” reads the letter.
It goes on to say to describe immigrants as “vital members” of the community.
“Immigrants are not just our co-workers but also our neighbors, friends and members of our church family,” the letter reads. “When our immigrant neighbors are attacked with harsh rhetoric, we feel their pain.”
In addition, some of the signatories voiced their support for the letter in a statement sent to Latin Post.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said, “Demagoguery or constructive conversations; that is the choice for today’s presidential contenders. As it pertains to immigration, Americans will no longer tolerate sound bites. Now is the time for a solution that will protect our borders and values. Now is the time for a Christian conservative prescription; one that stops illegal immigration while integrating those currently here in a manner that reflects the hopes of Ronald Reagan and the conviction of Jack Kemp. Now is the time!”
“The impact of our broken immigration system is something that is near to all of our hearts, as the people directly affected are our neighbors, classmates, students and fellow church members,” wrote Shirley Hoogstra, the President of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. “Therefore, we must ensure our leaders understand that as Christians, we are called to both love the stranger and to uphold the law, and so we must work together to find solutions that meet both of these goals.”