WASHINGTON — Today, at 11:30 a.m. EST, global humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement organization, World Relief convened a bipartisan press conference on Capitol Hill featuring Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Angus King (I-ME), alongside a diverse coalition of evangelical leaders advocating on behalf of a permanent legislative solution for Dreamers and more welcoming policies toward persecuted refugees around the world.
The press conference was held in conjunction with a full-page letter co-signed by over 1,200 pastors and leaders representing all 50 states. In a show of consolidating evangelical support behind Dreamers, co-signers include some of the most recognizable names in the country such as Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker, as well as pastors who are, as the Washington Post describes, “…of very large churches who don’t typically sign these kinds of statements, like Texas megachurch pastor Matt Chandler and Nevada megachurch pastor Jud Wilhite.” The letter reads in part:
“As Christian leaders, we have a commitment to caring for the vulnerable in our churches while also supporting just, compassionate and welcoming policies toward refugees and other immigrants. The Bible speaks clearly and repeatedly to God’s love and concern for the vulnerable, and also challenges us to think beyond our nationality, ethnicity or religion when loving our neighbor.”
Select Quotes From Today’s Press Conference:
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK):
“The Senate by nature always goes toward what’s easiest. Like water runs downhill, we go toward status quo. And my concern is if we just punt this for a year and come back, we’ll do that 20 more times, so I’d like to see us avoid that the first time… In American law, we don’t hold the child accountable for the actions of their parents. One of the favorite illustrations that I have on that is that if you pull someone over for speeding, you don’t hand the ticket to the 4-year old in the back seat.”
Sen. Angus King (I-ME):
“In Matthew 25, which for me summarizes my Christian faith, is the list of people who we are called upon to be responsible for, and I think the second person on that list is the stranger. ‘I was a stranger and you took me in,’ and that’s what we’re talking about here. I view this as a unique opportunity for us to carry out our moral and ethical and scriptural responsibilities at the same time we carry out our legal, social and political responsibilities.”
Scott Arbeiter, President, World Relief:
“We wrote this letter out of our Christian calling… but we also write it as citizens. We believe that our national well-being and compassion for the immigrant and the refugee are not mutually exclusive. So we are praying. We are very consistent in our prayers and dedicated to prayers for our leaders that they would find wisdom and compassion tethered together, and in that they would lead us into a just and a compassionate and a wise legislative answer. The time is now. And as Christians, as Evangelicals, we stand ready to continue and even increase our commitment to serving the vulnerable as these laws mature.”
Thabiti Anyabwil, Senior Pastor, Anacostia River Church, Washington, D.C.:
“As a pastor my mind is riveted to texts like Deuteronomy Chapter 10, where the Lord says, in verse 17 that he loves the sojourner, and then says therefore, you love them too. It’s incredibly informative that when God began to build a family for himself, he began with slaves and exiles, and refugees, people with no home, people fleeing persecution, and it’s among those that he says, ‘I will begin to build my family.’”
Jesse Rincones, Executive Director, Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas, Board Member, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC):
“Providing a permanent DACA solution is the most pro-family, pro-education, pro-economy and pro-faith step that Congress and the president can take on this issue. Their failure to do so has far reaching effects beyond just the estimated 120,000 DACA recipients in Texas. It will be our local churches and our local communities that continue to deal with the repercussions of such a failure.”
Ruth Velasquez, Co-founder, Voices of Christian Dreamers, Wheaton, IL:
“This is the country that I love. This is the country where my Christian values and my identity were formed. This is the country where I was able to become the first person in my family to ever graduate from college and pursue a career. I’ve used my work permit authorization to work for World Relief… With DACA being canceled, I’m in constant fear of losing my job, losing access to health care, being separated from my family, and being deported. Immigration deals with dignity and family unity, therefore it’s a biblical matter, and should be of concern to the church.”
Eric Costanzo, Senior Pastor, South Tulsa Baptist Church, Tulsa, OK:
“We’re at a time right now where it probably seems like many evangelicals, and many evangelical churches, are trying to keep immigrants and refugees at an arm’s length. And I’m here to say that that’s not true for all evangelicals, and it’s certainly not true for all evangelical churches. It’s been a challenge to shepherd our congregation to do the work of Jesus Christ among the nations, especially in the last 18 months. As a church we are located in the most affluent part of our city. For the most part we are very homogenized in our whiteness, but we have since become home in the last few years to several international people – immigrants, refugees from all over the world. And as we’ve sought to open up doors to welcome and serve them, we now see people from over 30 different countries in our church building on a weekly basis.”
World Relief invites others to add their name to the letter here.
View the ABC News livestream of today’s press conference here.
World Relief is a global humanitarian aid and development organization that stands with the vulnerable and partners with local churches to end the cycle of suffering, transform lives and build sustainable communities. With over 70 years of experience, World Relief has 25 offices in the United States that specialize in refugee and immigration services, and works in 20 countries worldwide through disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding.