Leaders from across the evangelical community came together this week to release open letters to President Obama and to the House and Senate leadership, seeking action on immigration policy. On a press call, leaders discussed the implications of the 2012 election and their plans for harnessing the growing consensus in the evangelical community around reform.
The letters highlight why evangelical leaders are concerned about the current immigration system, lay out moral principles for reform and explain why leaders have called for reform in the first 92 days of President Obama’s second term. The letters state:
We are driven by a moral obligation rooted deeply in our faith to address the needs of immigrants in our country. Compassionate and just treatment of immigrants is a frequent topic in scripture. The Hebrew word for immigrant, “ger,” occurs 92 times throughout the Bible.
The letters call for balanced immigration reform that respects the God-given dignity of every person, guarantees secure national borders, protects the unity of the immediate family, ensures fairness to taxpayers and respects the rule of law, but also establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.
The Evangelical Immigration Table, which launched in June 2012, represents diverse evangelical leaders from across the political spectrum, including The National Association of Evangelicals, Sojourners, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. A full list of partner organizations is available at www.evangelicalimmigrationtable.com, along with a list of more than 150 prominent evangelical leaders who have endorsed the Table’s principles for reform.
The group discussed their legislative and campaign priorities. The letters read, “We stand ready to support legislation that reflects Christian values and builds the common good.”
Full quotes from the members on the call can be read below:
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC): “This election season split our country, but today we come together in an unprecedented show of unity within the evangelical community: black, white, Hispanic and Asian. Our country needs a just immigration system, and Congress and President Obama must act this coming year.”
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals (NAE): “Immigration is not just a Hispanic issue. Immigration is not just an Asian issue, European or African issue. It is a Christian issue. It is a moral issue. And how our country chooses to handle our immigrants reflects the character of our entire nation. As a Christian, my faith calls me to be concerned for all my neighbors, whether or not they look like me, talk like me or even believe like me. My mother was an immigrant — we are a country of immigrants, and many of us are just a few generations separated from our families arriving on this nation’s shores. Immigration is an issue close to my heart because it is close to the heart of God. It is of concern to me because it is of concern to my neighbors.”
Dr. Danny Carroll Rodas, Immigration Spokesperson, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and professor at Denver Seminary: “There is a movement spreading and a new consensus on immigration is growing. The Evangelical Immigration Table has organizers across the country with CCDA, World Relief, NaLEC, Esperanza, and NHCLC working in states such as Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Texas who are all building out an infrastructure of advocates who are passionate about immigration reform. This work is built on the premise of relationships that cross ethnic lines and denominational differences. When people get to know their neighbors, they come to know the concerns and the struggles their neighbors face. As Christians, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. And that is what is happening.”
Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President for Public Policy and Research, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention: “The Evangelical Immigration Table is politically diverse. Not everyone on this call voted the same way on Election Day. But, we share some core convictions about the values our nation should reflect. We are united in the belief that all people are created in the image of God and worthy of respect and dignity, regardless of country of origin. We are fighting for the right of families to stay together, for business owners to have the ability to hire the workers they need and have a system that ensures fairness to taxpayers. We don’t need to choose between American security and treating immigrants who are already here with respect and dignity.”
Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners: “During the election we heard the media talk a lot about “evangelicals,” and what they were normally referring to was a political term. But when we use the word “evangelical” we are using it as a theological term. We are all united by shared belief the Christ has come, Christ has risen and Christ will come again — and that is good news for us all and the world. We stand ready and willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats who are committed to fair and just immigration reform. The country is hungry for its political leaders to tackle this challenge. They want to see a bipartisan win that shows we can work together as a country and move mountains.”
SEIU’s Eliseo Medina Applauds Growing Chorus of Support for Immigration Reform:
“The Evangelical leadership delivers a much-needed moral voice to the immigration debate. Inside its churches, the pastors have seen the growing diversity of its congregants, including immigrants from all over the world. They have heard the angst of those with and without legal status who worry whether or when they can be reunited with their families, whether their children will be bullied at school or asked about their status, whether they will be treated with compassion and dignity or be scapegoated because of the color of their skin.
“These are issues Congress must consider. In recent days, we have heard Republican conservatives talking about the need to address immigration reform, apparently having awakened to the political reality that Latinos carried President Obama to victory. But as I ask in a Huffington Post blog http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eliseo-medina/republicans-immigration-reform_b_2118065.html published today, the GOP talks about immigration reform but will it change its tone?
“The GOP can no longer hang on two tones, one of apparent understanding of the problems of our immigration system and another that sees immigrants as an unfair burden. The party needs to not only work with us to fix the immigration problem but also change its tone if it wants to remain a viable political party.”