Over 200 Houston Clergy Back Immigration Reform

Some 250 pastors in the Houston area have issued a declaration in support of immigration reform, which they say is caught in a "tangible and present crisis."

"In the course of our history as a nation, challenges and crisis moments have arisen that required principled leadership and the laying aside of partisan politics. Such is the need before us in our day regarding the escalating illegal immigration crisis and the security of our national borders," reads the declaration, which was organized by the Houston Area Pastors Council.

The statement, issued this week, outlines a prioritized response to issue of immigration that signers would like lawmakers to follow, including securing the national borders, reforming the immigration system, and implementing a system for illegals to gain citizenship, in that specific order.

"It is clear and evident that the tangible and present crisis regarding the state of our national border security and immigration system must be addressed rapidly, justly and humanely with equal regard to both rule of law and God-given value of every individual," the statement says.

"Holy Scriptures demand that justice and compassion be balanced with neither improperly dominant over the other in our hearts and our laws."

Authors of the document say they created it in order to bring "balance, principle, and reasoned dialogue" to the immigration debate and to represent the "historically-respected voice of the pulpits" - something that they say has been too often hijacked by "clergy who have rejected the orthodox tenets of the Holy Scripture.

The declaration's signers are mostly Baptist and non-denominational pastors, although Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic clerics have also signed on.

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s General Assembly passed a measure against Arizona's contentious S.B. 1070, which is slated to be put into practice at the end of this month.

"The newly enacted Arizona law…neither secures the southern border of the United States nor advances the goal of comprehensive immigration reform but unfairly targets an entire class of people as potential violators of immigration law," the group's statement reads.

The statement further calls for "vigorous" advocacy on immigration reform and acknowledges that immigrants play a "critical role" in the U.S. economy.

"Racism must be confronted with action," former General Assembly moderator John Fife, who lives in Arizona, told Assembly delegates on Thursday.

The church's action comes just days after the federal government filed a lawsuit against the Arizona measure – move that pro-reform advocates lauded as being bold and timely.

"The Arizona law (SB1070) and its amendment are an affront to core American and religious values," said New York Faith and Justice Director Lisa Sharon Harper in a piece in the Huffington Post.

Harper further called on President Obama to not let up in his support for immigration reform despite public opinion polls, which continue to show divide among Americans on the issue.

The latest Gallup Poll on the Justice Department's lawsuit showed that 38 percent of Americans strongly oppose the suit compared with 26 percent that strongly favor it. Nearly one-fifth of those polled had no opinion.

"President Barack Obama and both houses of Congress…in the coming days you will be tempted to fear the polls, but you have something greater to fear. Fear the judgment of history," Harper writes, quoting from an open letter sent last week by some 600 religious leaders.

"Mr. President…we implore you and Congress, don't turn back. Don't stall out," Harper writes. "Protect our values and interests and keep letting your actions do the talking."

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