Thirty-two Iowa pastors and a handful of national leaders have informed the 2016 presidential candidates that evangelical voters “are looking for a biblical approach regarding immigrants and immigration.”

The biblical witness to humans being created in God’s image, as well as Jesus’ “high regard for foreigners in his teaching and actions,” was cited in an open letter to candidates and urged them to take a compassionate response toward immigrants.

“Candidates who espouse harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies risk alienating many voters,” the letter stated.

Immigrants buoy the economy through businesses and labor, they “are not just our co-workers but also our neighbors, friends and members of our church family. … [W]e know them to be vital members of our community.”

“Immigrants continue to contribute to our economy,” the ministers shared. “In Iowa alone, Asian- and Latino-owned businesses employ thousands and contribute more than $1 billion annually to the economy. Immigrants are also key to the agricultural sector, which makes up more than 25 percent of Iowa’s economy.”

While referencing the Bible’s command to obey the law, the leaders said current immigration regulations are outdated; they “mock the rule of law rather than strengthen it.”

The letter urged presidential hopefuls to tone down the anti-immigration rhetoric and to find a middle ground, “a sensible solution between the extremes of mass deportation and blanket amnesty.”

The letter was published on Wednesday by the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelicals with the mission of “advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values.”

Baptist signatories include Ed Hedding, a Liberty University graduate who is senior pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Bettendorf; John L. Shaull, director of missions at the Southern Baptist Convention affiliated-Metro Baptist Association in Winterset; and Dorothy Whiston, pastor of First Baptist Church in Iowa City, an American Baptist congregation.

Other signatories include Karla Stoltzfus Detweiler, pastor, First Mennonite Church, Iowa City; Marvin Pelaez, pastor, Pentecostal Church of God, Des Moines; and Kory Plockmeyer, pastor, Covenant Christian Reformed Church, Sioux Center.

Gospel Without Borders,”’s ecumenical documentary on faith and immigration, included a narrative from Des Moines.

A Hispanic Christian community in Iowa’s capital helped to rebuild, spiritually and structurally, the Trinity United Methodist Church and raised money to build a medical clinic in an impoverished village in El Salvador.

Editor’s note: A free PDF resource sheet on immigration and immigration reform is available through the storefront.

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