Southern Baptist leaders are asking Americans and members of congress to view the current immigration crisis as a humanitarian issue rather than a political one, arguing that those who illegally enter the country are "people created in the image of God."
Several members of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention recently toured two Texas facilities Tuesday that are providing temporary shelter to illegal immigrant children from Central America.
During their tour, the members followed U.S. Border Patrol agents, spoke to refugee children, and met with pastors who currently work to care for immigrants after they enter the United States.
"For me, touring the facility puts a human face on the crisis," Russell Moore, president of the ERLC told the Associated Press Tuesday after he toured the Customs and Border Protection facility in McAllen.
"To be able to talk to a 7-year-old boy from El Salvador, about the same age as my own son, and to wonder what sort of horror is in his background, having trekked across Mexico to seek refuge," Moore continued. "It puts a human face on the situation for me, especially since we're at a time when many of our churches are sending kids off to youth camps all over the country. To see these children about the same age, who are at a place of great uncertainty, touches me at the human level."
Currently, over 55,000 children and others from Central American who have entered the U.S. since this spring are being housed in federal facilities across the country. Many Americans are upset by this, saying taxpayer dollars are paying for the care of illegal immigrants, and arguing that an immigration reform proposed by the Obama administration will give amnesty to those already living illegally in the country.
However, Moore encourages Christians to look at the issue from a Biblical angle.
"These are people created in the image of God," said Moore. "It's easy to forget when we're simply talking about the issue as though it were merely political."
"Americans, regardless of our views on immigration policy, ought to be moved with compassion for the plight of these children; and to ask: What should we do to address this crisis? And see the crisis for what it is - a moral issue and not merely a political one," he added.
Several leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table also recently sent a letter to members of Congress Tuesday asking them to not make any changes to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.
"We sent a letter Tuesday asking Congress not to weaken our trafficking laws that were part of President Bush's strong efforts to combat human trafficking-not to weaken those laws in response to this crisis," stated Moore. "The last thing we should do is empower even more trafficking in response to this problem," he clarified. "I think the main issue is that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue need to stop the bickering and sitdown and ask: How can we work together to solve this problem?"
"I think that most Americans understand that we need secure borders, certainly Christians do. And I think most Americans understand that we have a broken immigration system, and a crisis when it comes to the drug war and violence in Central America," he concluded.