Evangelicals’ Immigration Policies Protest as Diverse as Denominations of the Church

immigration protest

During a demonstration on Monday at the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, 400 people—many of them church leaders—protested America’s immigration policies. Federal agents arrested 32 of the protesters, most on suspicion of trespassing.

The demonstration, organized by the Quaker group American Friends Service Committee, was part of a national week of action called “Love knows no borders: A moral call for migrant justice.” It stretches from Monday, which was International Human Rights Day, to December 18, which is International Migrants’ Day.

Protesters called for the U.S. government to respect immigrants’ rights, welcome the so-called migrant caravan, and defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection.

Protesters Pray for an End to Injustice

As demonstrators approached the border wall near Tijuana, Mexico, federal agents ordered them to move back. Last month, U.S. agents fired tear gas into Mexico when migrants reportedly began throwing rocks. Some of Monday’s protesters say that incident is what brought them to the border.

The Rev. Minerva Carcaño, a United Methodist bishop from San Francisco, led some clergy into the ocean for prayer. “I was praying for the actual toppling of this wall,” says Carcaño, the denomination’s first Hispanic woman bishop. Calling the protest “the right and humane thing to do,” Carcaño notes, “How we act in these moments determines who we will become as a nation.”

During the demonstration, Rev. Liz Theoharis, a Presbyterian pastor and founder of the Poverty Initiative, told a reporter, “Our sacred texts tell us to tear down walls, to welcome the immigrant, and to treat everyone as if they are God’s children.”

The Rev. Jill Zundell, a Methodist pastor from Detroit, was heartbroken to see “the faces across the border that we could not reach.” More than 6,000 Central American migrants, currently living in tent cities in Tijuana, hope to seek asylum in the United States.

Pastor Gavin Rogers, who’s been traveling with the migrant caravan and documenting his experiences on social media, also was at Monday’s protests. Afterward he tweeted, “I have full respect for many of the border patrol agents. We were not against them as people. We were there to pray for and lift up our friends across the border.” 

Families Should Stay Together, Evangelical Group Says

Also on Monday, the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) released a statement urging the Trump administration to reconsider a proposed regulation they say would “keep many families apart.” It gives federal employees broad discretion to deny applications for immigrant visas and family reunification based on suspicions that someone might eventually apply for government assistance. An estimated 200,000 married couples and their children could be affected.

“While Christians may disagree at points on the exact role of government in caring for the poor through public benefit programs,” the statement says, “we are unified in our commitment to maintaining the unity of the family whenever possible.” The EIT also notes that “attempts to restrict legal immigration, whether by administrative or legislative changes, are likely to incentivize illegal immigration.”

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Stephanie Martin
Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 26 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.