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Faith Leaders Push Back on Campaign Immigration Speech, Call for Substantive Reform

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The surge of migrants on the southern border is creating political pressure for presidential candidates and Congress. Some faith leaders are calling for an end to harsh rhetoric and an approach that considers border security as well as the needs of asylum seekers.

Last month, a record 300,000 migrants approached the southwestern U.S. border. 

Last year, more than 2 million crossed into the U.S.

For President Biden, the growing numbers have become a political nightmare. The record crossings have resulted in migrants being bused to crowded cities across the U.S., earning him the wrath of Democratic governors and mayors.

For GOP presidential candidates, however, the problem is a potential political winner. Polling shows Republicans leading on the immigration issue and former President Trump gaining some ground among Latino voters. 

In recent weeks though, Trump's words on immigrants have taken an extreme turn. At one rally he said, "they're poisoning the blood of our country, that's what they've done." Later, he doubled down on the comments.

Some church leaders are pushing back, like former Trump faith advisor Rev. Sam Rodriguez, who leads 40,000 churches in the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. 

"That rhetoric does not in any form or shape activate the Hispanic electorate which is naturally conservative," he told CBN News. "That community will be alienated if you continue to push them against the wall by deeming immigrants as a poison."

World Relief president Myal Greene calls Trump's language unbiblical. He says polling shows that many Christians support immigration reform.

"We know that from a public policy standpoint that many evangelical Christians want to see substantive, meaningful policy change and what we're getting from presidential candidates is rhetoric that is meant to divide people and cause fear in people's hearts," Greene told CBN News.  

Greene, one of the leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table, urges believers to consider questions around immigration with a biblical lens. "We're called to consider this issue of immigration very thoughtfully and with compassion and love," he said.

Trump is touting an immigration policy that's tougher than his main GOP rivals Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. The former president promises the largest deportation campaign in U.S. history and has called for blocking people with certain beliefs from entering the country.

This comes as persecution watchdog groups like Open Doors warn that Christians fleeing violence are struggling to find countries that will take them in. 

"The doors are closing for persecuted Christians around the world," said Greene. "Many are trying to utilize the southern border as a path to entry to this country, fleeing religious persecution in other parts of the world."

Greene says those with legitimate claims need a clear path to asylum.

Meanwhile, evangelist Franklin Graham is putting a spiritual priority on the border, planning a ten-city tour this spring.

Rodriguez says he's hoping for a presidential campaign that acknowledges the need for border security and reform and includes the vital role of immigrants.

"Immigrants are a blessing to America," said Rodriguez. "Without immigration, we would not have America."


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About The Author


Heather Sells covers wide-ranging stories for CBN News that include religious liberty, ministry trends, immigration, and education. She’s known for telling personal stories that capture the issues of the day, from the border sheriff who rescues migrants in the desert to the parents struggling with a child that identifies as transgender. In the last year, she has reported on immigration at the Texas border, from Washington, D.C., in advance of the Dobbs abortion case, at crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts, and on sexual abuse reform at the annual Southern Baptist meeting in Anaheim