Leaders of nearly 200 Catholic and Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues in the four states that border Mexico gathered here today to urge Congress and President Obama not to weaken a 2008 law which grants the Central American immigrant children who are arriving in the United States the right to hearings, and protects them from immediate deportation.
The religious leaders, including several Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate, saying Biblical teaching demands that the U.S. welcome the immigrants.
"The Jewish people were foreigners in Egypt, and God reached out to bring them into the Promised Land, the Rev. Mike DeGerolami, a Catholic priest, told the gathering.
The Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which was passed in 2008 to help young victims of cross border sex trafficking, has been blamed by some observers for the current rush more than 57,000 children and families, mainly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. A measure to repeal the provisions of the law to treat Central Americans the same way children from Mexico are treated, and granted a 'quick voluntary return' to their native country, has been introduced in Congress and has drawn support from both parties.
But the church leaders say those restrictions go against American principles.
"A lot of us feel these are our children, they are anybody's children, and they should be treated a children with special needs, and not just indiscriminately shipped back across the border," DeGerolami said.
The faith leaders repeatedly quoted passages from the Bible calling for people to 'show kindness and mercy' to immigrants and to people in need.
DeGerolami says that kindness and mercy applies even to people who have broken immigration law to get into the U.S.
"I think out of desperation people will go to any steps to avoid violence and persecution and to seek a better life," he said.
Letters supporting the immigrant children will be read from pulpits across the four states this weekend, and Methodist pastor Rev. Kelly Allen said Christian groups are prepared to do more to help the immigrants.
"Many many churches have already provided much material aid, and there are many people wanting to become foster parents," she said.