Evangelicals call for immigration reform

By Alan Bean

Evangelical organizations from the left-leaning Sojourners to the right-leaning Focus on the Family, have joined in a plea for immigration system.  If you’re curious, you can find a list of all the signatories here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Critics will note that there are few concrete policy proposals mentioned in the brief list of principles released by the Evangelical Immigration Table.  But the fact that conservative religious leaders are calling on political leaders to “welcome the stranger” is noteworthy.  Here’s the statement:

Evangelical Statement of Principles for
Immigration Reform

Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America. Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost.

As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a bipartisan solution on immigration that:

  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

We urge our nation’s leaders to work together with the American people to pass immigration reform that embodies these key principles and that will make our nation proud.

This sounds a lot like talking points from immigration moderates like George W. Bush or Barack Obama and creates the impression that a majority of Americans, including a healthy swath of the evangelical community, favor comprehensive immigration reform.

Tea Party zealots comprise the big roadblock to change.   By making a “no amnesty” stance on immigration a litmus test for genuine conservatism, the radical right has dominated the debate and made it difficult for politicians on either side of the ideological divide to address the immigration issue.  The statement released this week by the Evangelical Immigration Table makes it much easier for presidential candidates to talk about immigration reform. 

Sure, the statement released on Tuesday is short on specifics.  But when religious conservatives voice a common support for biblical compassion, human dignity and family unity, it’s time to celebrate.

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