There is a profound biblical tradition of lament in the face of injustice. In the past few weeks, as the House of Representatives has reportedly determined not to vote on immigration reform and as we witness a crisis of vulnerable children arriving at our southern border, our hearts are heavy.
As Christian leaders, our support of immigration reform has primarily been about people, not politics — people who live in constant fear of deportation, of their families being separated and of the uncertainty of what tomorrow might bring.
We have built our church and ministry on the core conviction that all people matter to God. Our faith does not allow us to simply turn aside as we witness people, many of whom are fellow followers of Christ, being tossed aside and mistreated. The recent images of children — people whom our faith commands us to welcome in Jesus’ name — languishing in warehouses at the border have only exacerbated the urgency that we feel for Congress, once and for all, to fix this problem.
Immigration is a multi-faceted, controversial problem, eliciting strong opinions from people on all sides of the aisle. But leadership requires courage, doing what is right, whether or not it is popular.
When we joined other leaders to endorse the principles of the Evangelical Immigration Table, we saw leaders from diverse evangelical traditions and political allegiances unite around a commonsense solution to a complicated issue. When we took a stand, initially it was not universally popular, but we felt compelled to speak up on behalf of the vulnerable.
As it turns out, the vast majority of Christians here in Chicagoland and around the country do support immigration reform, particularly after they have been challenged to think about the topic from a biblical perspective. However, our ultimate authority is Scripture, not a poll. So, while surveys suggest that passing immigration reform would be popular with just about every constituency possible — including most evangelical Christians, most Republicans, most Democrats, most Independents, even most Tea Party voters — we expected the House of Representatives to act because it is the right thing to do.
To declare that immigration reform is dead this year represents a lost opportunity for Americans of all political stripes, as well as those who aspire to become Americans through an earned legalization process.
Delaying this fix to our broken system perpetuates the present reality that is separating families, and we cannot stay silent about the fact that our elected leaders have squandered an opportunity to fix our broken immigration system. We expected better.
Many members of Congress have privately expressed their support for immigration reform, but too few want to make a tough vote. While our legislators look for the right political opportunity, though, real people suffer.
Congress must find a way to immediately re-engage reform for the sake of our families, our communities and the economic stability of our country. It is time for courageous leadership.
Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington
Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association, Chicago