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Prominent Evangelicals Weigh in on the Immigration Debate

Barbed wire border fence and a sign warn to keep out.

The rhetoric over illegal (and legal) immigration has heated up in recent years. The Trump ascendancy has raised the intensity of the debate. Donald Trump made clamping down on undocumented migrants a centerpiece of his campaign from the start, and many of his most ardent supporters have taken the hardest line on border security and deportation.

On the other side of the divide are those who favor completely open borders. They would allow anyone in, regardless of their willingness to follow the path to citizenship. The children of those who came to this country illegally have been left in the middle. Many of them were small children when their families crossed the border, and America is all they know of as home.

There must be another option, one that falls between the extremes of "send them all back" and "let everyone in." A group of prominent evangelicals believes that compromise is possible, and they have signed an open letter expressing concerns with immigration policy.

The open letter appears in an ad that originated from World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. The list of signatories on the letter includes many Christian leaders who have shied away from political statements in the past.

"As Christian leaders, we have a commitment to caring for the vulnerable in our churches while also supporting just, compassionate and welcoming policies toward refugees and other immigrants,” the letter opens, going on to request legal protection for the Dreamers who entered the US as children, an increase in the admittance of refugees and persecuted Christians, and quicker priority for immigrants seeking to reunite with their families.

Over a hundred names appear at the bottom of the ad, and thousands more have signed an online petition containing the same language. The names include many leading lights in conservative Christian circles — names like Russell Moore, Matt Chandler, Bryant Wright, and Max Lucado. (Of course, some liberal Christians like Jen Hatmaker and Shane Claiborne have lent their names to the letter as well.)

The open letter comes at a time when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is under scrutiny with every continuing budget resolution that Congress debates. Additionally, Trump administration immigration policy has drastically lowered the number of refugees coming into the United States.

It's worth noting that more Christians than Muslims find refuge in the United States, contrary to the fears of many who find themselves in favor of the most vigorous immigration policy. In October, Christianity Today reported that "from 2002 to 2017, Christian refugees were resettled more often than any other religion."

The Trump administration has capped refugees for fiscal year 2018 at 45,000—the lowest since presidents were given the power to set limits back in 1980.

World Relief president Scott Arbeiter called the number “very troubling, especially as the persecution of many religious minorities, including Christians, is on the rise globally.

“The refugee program has been a lifeline of protection for persecuted individuals, in particular, persecuted Christians, around the world,” he stated.