[Release] Illinois Evangelical Leaders Urge Congress & President Trump to Protect Dreamers, Refugees

Feb. 8, 2018

WASHINGTON — With Congress facing a deadline to resolve the situation of “Dreamers,” several nationally prominent evangelical leaders from Illinois are among the signatories to a letterurging President Trump and Members of Congress to protect Dreamers, refugees, persecuted Christians, and immigrant families seeking reunification.

Among the dozens of Illinois-based pastors to sign the letter were Bill and Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, based in South Barrington; Wilfredo de Jesus of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago; Rob Bugh of Wheaton Bible Church; Ron Zappia of Highpoint Church, based in Naperville; and  Dave Ferguson of Community Christian Church, with campuses in various communities including Naperville, Plainfield, and Yorkville. Other prominent Illinois signatories include Philip Ryken and Ed Stetzer, both affiliated with Wheaton College; Noel Castellanos, president of the Chicago-based Christian Community Development Association; and Harold Smith, CEO of Carol Stream-based Christianity Today.

The letter was published yesterday as a full-page ad in the Washington Post and announced at a press conference on Capitol Hill that featured remarks from Ruth Velazquez, a DACA recipient from Wheaton who is a cofounder of Voices of Christian Dreamers. Senators James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Angus King (I-Maine) also spoke, as did nationally prominent evangelical leaders including Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Shirley Hoogstra of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals.

The letter and press conference were coordinated by World Relief, which for decades has partnered with local churches in and around Chicago, Wheaton, Aurora, and Moline to welcome refugees and other immigrants.

Select Quotes From Illinoisan Signatories to the Letter:

Sandra Van Opstal, Executive Pastor, Grace and Peace Community, Chicago:

“Immigration policy is not merely an issue, it is a pastoral reality. As a Christian who believes that each man and woman is made in the image of God with inherent dignity and potential, I feel compelled to speak up for the people within my congregation and throughout our state who are vulnerable because of recent policy changes. I pray Congress will act quickly to allow Dreamers to earn citizenship, to resume resettlement of refugees to our country at levels closer to the historical norm, and to protect opportunities for families to be reunited.”

Susan Sperry, Executive Director, World Relief DuPage/Aurora:

“For nearly four decades, World Relief has been partnering with local churches to welcome refugees and other immigrants into Illinois. The groups mentioned in this letter are not statistics or political causes: they are people we love, who have become integral members of our community. My prayer is that our Representatives and Senators will work together on a bipartisan basis to craft solutions that address the challenges our immigrant neighbors face and reflect the best of our country’s values.”

Michael Langer, Senior Pastor, Glen Ellyn Covenant Church

“Glen Ellyn Covenant Church has partnered with refugee congregations for over eight years.  We have shared space, meals, stories, laughter and tears. We have gardened together, prayed together, and fixed plumbing together. I cannot overstate how much energy and life our immigrant friends have given us. For this reason, I see the sudden and stark decrease in the number of refugees being allowed to the U.S. as tragic missed opportunity. The possibility that Dreamers would lose their place in the only nation they have ever known is appalling. This is not who we are as Americans. I join many other Christian leaders throughout our state in praying for our most vulnerable immigrants and calling on our elected officials to stand up for them in their policy decision.”

World Relief invites others to add their name to the letter here.

View the ABC News livestream of yesterday’s press conference here, including Wheaton resident Ruth Velazquez’s remarks beginning at 45:47.


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. www.worldrelief.org

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