American Scene: Evangelicals push changes to U.S. immigration law

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NEW YORK — Prominent evangelical leaders announced a new effort Monday to persuade conservative Christians and lawmakers they should support overhauling U.S. immigration laws.

Called “I Was A Stranger,” the campaign asks churches to spend 40 days studying Scripture related to immigration, centered on the Matthew 25 exhortation to clothe and feed the stranger. Organizers hope to create a groundswell of support for changes that balance national security with keeping immigrant families together.

The coalition includes the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents about 40 denominations; the public policy arm of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention; Esperanza, the Latino evangelical economic development group; pastor Bill Hybels of the influential Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois and writer Max Lucado. Sojourners, the liberal-leaning evangelical advocacy group, is also participating.

“In the Anglo churches, there are so many more Hispanic people that we know and love,” said the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland church, which serves about 15,000 congregants in the Orlando, Fla., area. “There’s a readiness, even in the Anglo churches, to address this.”

Many evangelical leaders have actively supported reform in recent years as the number of immigrants has increased in their churches. However, rank-and-file congregants have been slower to take up the issue beyond demands for stronger national borders. In surveys, white evangelicals have generally ranked border security as their top priority, while showing low levels of support for creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

CONNECTICUT

US Airways plane lands after report of onboard fire

WINDSOR LOCKS — A US Airways flight with 49 passengers aboard landed safely at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut after a fire was reported on the plane. No one was injured.

Airport spokesman John Wallace said Flight 3518 to Pittsburgh took off from the airport in Windsor Locks at about 11:30 a.m. Monday. He said it was forced to return about 15 to 20 minutes later because of a fire reported in the plane’s auxiliary power unit. The plane landed at Bradley without incident shortly after noon.

It wasn’t clear if there actually was a fire. Airport officials said there was no fire when the plane landed.

US Airways officials didn’t immediately return messages.

ALABAMA

University asks court to toss shooting lawsuit

MOBILE — The University of South Alabama and its police chief want a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the parents of a nude student who was shot to death by a campus police officer.

Both the school and university Police Chief Zeke Aull argued in court documents that they are immune from being sued under state law in the October death of freshman Gil Collar, 18, of Wetumpka.

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