PORTLAND — A group of Maine’s top religious leaders called on policy makers to keep Maine a welcoming place for immigrants.

Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Temple Beth El in Portland, Eric Smith, associate director of the Maine Council of Churches, and leaders of the Episcopal Church and Unitarian Universalist community spoke at a news conference this morning to support a civil discussion of more than 30 legislative and budget proposals that could affect Maine’s immigrants and refugees. Some, such as an Arizona-style proposal to ask immigrants to prove legal status, threaten the state’s open and welcoming tradition, they said.

The religious leaders did not advocate for amnesty for illegal immigrants, but said their faiths teach followers to love and support strangers.

“It is our obligation as a fundamentally prosperous nation to accept graciously and welcome strangers among us,” Malone said.

“When we welcome the stranger, we are better Americans, better people and better people of faith,” said Braun.

The religious leaders signed on to what is known as the Maine Compact, which sets out principles to guide a civil debate about immigration in Maine.

A group of business leaders endorsed the Maine Compact in February, citing a history of immigrant-built Maine businesses and the economic importance of immigrants as workers and as tourists.