How Should Churches and Seminaries Respond to Immigrant Pastors Who Minister in the US Illegally?
Image: Illustration by Amanda Duffy

Support Reform

Kedri Metzger is senior attorney with Religious Worker Immigrant Legal Services of World Relief, based in Baltimore.

Immigrants are strengthening the church and revitalizing some denominations with significant growth. Many of these churches are started by local leaders who emphasize evangelism and know the culture and language of the growing immigrant population in the United States. But some of these pastors lack valid immigration status and face a complex and painful dilemma.

Alex and his family crossed the border illegally when he was an infant. Years later, after becoming a Christian, he began a ministry in his community that has grown into two separate church sites. Alex serves as a volunteer, unable to work since he does not have the necessary immigration papers. He has a family, including a child with Down syndrome who is a U.S. citizen. This complicates his situation even more: If Alex leaves the States, his child would lose access to crucial medical care. Alex has considered bringing himself to the attention of immigration authorities to plead his case before an immigration judge. But this would risk for being deported away from his child, to a country he doesn't remember.

Like Alex, some pastors came to the United States as small children. Some intentionally crossed the border undetected, while others entered on valid visas and later lost their immigration status through technical mistakes made by themselves or church leaders. Under current law, there are no remedies for these mistakes.

Those without valid immigration status are required to complete the immigration process abroad. If a pastor leaves the country to do so, he will likely face a 10-year bar from applying for reentry. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
From Issue:
Read These Next
Also in this IssueThe Public Listener: A Conversation with Radio Host Krista Tippett
The Public Listener: A Conversation with Radio Host Krista Tippett Subscriber Access Only
The radio journalist speaks about her faith, vocation, and what most media miss about evangelical Christians.
RecommendedFive Things You Should Know About Reinhold Niebuhr
Five Things You Should Know About Reinhold Niebuhr
From Carter to Comey, the legacy of "Washington's Favorite Theologian" endures.
TrendingThe Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
How the former FBI director’s interest in Reinhold Niebuhr shaped his approach to political power.
Editor's PickThe Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us
The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us
A leading Nigerian theologian believes the real danger to Christianity in Africa is in the church.
Christianity Today
How Should Churches and Seminaries Respond to ...
hide thisJuly/August July/August

In the Magazine

July/August 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.