ERLC President Brent Leatherwood urges Congress to end border crisis

Over 3.7 migrant encounters since 2022; Cartels facilitating human trafficking, drug operations

Reinaldo Calderon (R) distributes essentials to illegal immigrants as they wait outside a shelter home in San Antonio, Texas, on June 28, 2022.
Reinaldo Calderon (R) distributes essentials to illegal immigrants as they wait outside a shelter home in San Antonio, Texas, on June 28, 2022. | CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

The leader of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is calling on federal lawmakers to take action to address the border crisis, as border agents have been overwhelmed by over 3.7 million migrant encounters since the beginning of fiscal year 2022.

In a letter sent to members of the United States Congress on Friday, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood stressed the need to “take steps toward desperately needed immigration reform.” Leatherwood’s message to lawmakers came on the same day that Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allowed border officials to quickly turn away most illegal immigrants seeking entry into the U.S. due to the public health concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic, expired. 

Leatherwood noted that “with the ending of Title 42, we are already beginning to see devastating levels of humanitarian needs and troubling reports of buckling immigration systems.” He characterized the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has worsened because of Title 42’s expiration, as “self-inflicted chaos and catastrophe” as well as an “ongoing humanitarian emergency” and a “disaster.” 

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“I urge you to take up meaningful, bipartisan legislation that can actually take steps toward addressing the crisis,” he wrote. “The principles of safety, compassion, justice, refuge, and the rule of law are not in tension — we are able to most effectively and compassionately serve the vulnerable and keep our communities from being overwhelmed when we have strong border security paired with robust, navigable legal pathways for those who need them most.”

Leatherwood added: “Our convention has called for legislation that includes ‘an emphasis on securing our borders and providing a pathway to legal status with appropriate restitutionary measures, maintaining the priority of family unity, resulting in an efficient immigration system that honors the value and dignity of those seeking a better life for themselves and their families.’’’ 

The ERLC president also recalled the Southern Baptist Convention’s adoption of a resolution proclaiming “the value and dignity of immigrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, or legal status.” Highlighting how Southern Baptists have “consistently called for immigration reforms that secure our border and also respect the dignity of migrants as human beings made in the image of God,” Leatherwood lamented that “this call has only been met with decades of partisan posturing that have brought us to this moment of crisis.”

The Republican-controlled U.S. House passed legislation along party lines last week that calls for the resumption of construction on the border wall separating the U.S. from Mexico, which the Biden administration halted upon taking office in 2021. It would also re-establish the “Remain in Mexico” policy implemented by the Trump administration that requires migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated and orders the reopening of ICE detention centers closed or repurposed during the Biden administration.

The White House released a statement ahead of the passage of the Secure the Border Act of 2023 indicating that President Joe Biden would veto the measure if it reached his desk.

The Biden administration condemned it as an attempt to “cut off nearly all access to humanitarian protections in ways that are inconsistent with our nation’s values and international obligations” as it expressed a desire to enact immigration policy “expanding legal pathways while increasing consequences for illegal pathways.”

As passage of the Secure the Border Act of 2023 remains unlikely because Democrats control the U.S. Senate and Biden has already vowed a veto, a bipartisan group of Senators has introduced a bill that would expand the protections of Title 42 for two more years. 

While Sen. Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have teamed up with Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina to craft the legislation, it remains to be seen whether the bill will be able to secure the 60 votes needed for passage in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Even if the measure were to pass the Senate and the House, it might still be subject to Biden’s veto pen. 

As most of the calls for immigration reform are directed at the federal government, a group of concerned citizens recently held a rally outside the Texas State Capitol seeking action from the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature on the border crisis. The “How Many More” event, which took place in Austin on April 29, called on state lawmakers to “declare an invasion on our southern border” and create a state-funded “Border Protection Unit.”

In an interview with The Christian Post ahead of the event, organizer Mark Meckler elaborated on the consequences of the border crisis by asking, “How many more members of American families will we say it’s OK to die of [a] fentanyl overdose or fentanyl poisoning as promoted by the international cartels” before taking action to address the situation at the border? 

Meckler also discussed the epidemic of “sexual slavery” young girls and women face when making the journey to the U.S., estimating that between 30% and 60% of women trafficked into the U.S. experience sexual assault, sometimes numerous assaults and abuse. 

Other questions posed by the group were, “How many more … Texas communities must see their hospitals and schools overrun by non-citizens?” and “How many more … American dollars must flow to Mexican cartels and their Chinese money launderers?”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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