Presbyterian pastor says US should welcome undocumented immigrants

By staff writers
August 11, 2010

US Presbyterian pastor Ben Daniel has written a book calling for immigration reform that welcomes undocumented immigrants in the country.

The contribution to what has become a heated debate in the USA, follows grassroots church and civil rights opposition to draconian anti-immigration laws in Arizona, and attempts by several wealthy countries to target incomers in response to the recession.

In Neighbor: Christian Encounters with 'Illegal' Immigration, published by Westminster John Knox Press, Daniel recounts several real-life stories of undocumented migrants - a war refugee, a teenaged girl who is the sole breadwinner for her family, a mother trying to return to her children - while providing a historical sketch of immigration laws in the United States.

In doing so, the minister counters common arguments against the welcoming of undocumented immigrants, including claims that they cause harm to the US economy and violate the biblical mandate to uphold justice.

"Ben Daniel leaves us no room to hide anti-immigrant prejudice behind a fig leaf of piety," writes Frank Schaeffer in the foreword. Indeed, Daniel examines the biblical call to welcome and to seek justice for "latter-day pilgrims," and offers five changes he believes are necessary for any just reform of the American immigration policy.

Daniel's report includes interviews with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (Democrat, San José), the chair of the House of Representatives subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, and Robert C. Brack, a federal court judge in Las Cruces, New Mexico, who provides a striking portrait of the reality of immigrant detainees.

The book also offers the stories of American Christians who are helping migrants both in the United States and in Mexico, including churches that provide sanctuary, individuals who provide food and water to those crossing the border, Presbyterian ministries in Mexico, and others.

Ben Daniel is Pastor of Foothill Presbyterian Church in San José, California, whose two hundred members come from over twenty different countries. He has served on the board of Presbyterian Border Ministry, a bi-national organisation supported by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico.

Daniel is a regular contributor to UPI's online religion and spirituality forum, as well as KQED FM, the largest National Public Radio affiliate in the USA. He is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. Two of his three children, and his foster daughter, are immigrants. He blogs at


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