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PRESS RELEASE: Evangelical Leaders to Push for Earned Citizenship

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 18, 2013 — Evangelical leaders today announced a statement of support for earned citizenship as part of broad, bipartisan immigration reform. The Evangelical Immigration Table’s call is rooted in the biblical values of human dignity and respect.
The conversation around immigration has changed among evangelicals and is changing in Congress, where leaders are hearing the call of evangelicals and others who are pushing for a road to earned citizenship. Evangelical leaders have continued to build momentum: They met with President Obama on March 8 to talk about immigration reform and are in the midst of a Christian radio ad campaign in South Carolina in support of immigration reform informed by biblical principles. Speakers on today’s call also noted the impact of the continuing “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge.

The following statements can be attributed to speakers on today’s call:

Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals:
“We’re pleased that all of the serious proposals that have been put forward for fixing our broken immigration system do involve having a way for those who are here in an undocumented status to come forward and identify themselves and then be able to earn permanent residency and eventually citizenship. … We want to see at the end of the day an opportunity for the folks who have been here, who have been working hard and contributing but lacking that legal status, to be able to eventually become citizens like the rest of us.”

Robert Gittelson, President and Co-Founder, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform:
“All of our organizations [in the Evangelical Immigration Table], from the more progressive groups to the more conservative organizations, didn’t have significant daylight between us in how we felt about the issue of earned citizenship. We were unanimous in our conclusion that both from a moral perspective as well as from the perspective of our shared American values, we all felt that some kind of rigorous yet attainable pathway towards eventual citizenship was appropriate and just. … Aspiring Americans should be able to swear their oath of allegiance and fealty to our great nation [and] be able to assume the oath of citizenship. They should have an eventual yet unfettered access to the full pursuit of our shared American dream.”

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition:
“The National Latino Evangelical Coalition is so hopeful that there’s strong bipartisan support, that the Evangelical Immigration Table, with evangelicals from all over the political spectrum and ideological spectrum, have gotten behind a legalization process that gives people a path to citizenship. We believe that now is the time, that the moral standard is being met … Many of our congregations are full of immigrants that just want to contribute to the American dream and contribute to the American economy.”

Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners:
“As evangelicals we don’t believe there are second class images of God, and therefore we don’t believe in a second class status for people who are willing to follow an earned path toward citizenship. That’s very important to us. … We’ve been through a conversion on this as evangelicals, a biblical conversion, a relational conversion, and really a conversion about the future of the church. … Faith leaders can offer to political leaders both courage and coverage, sometimes, to do the right thing … we think that’s happening now and we’re very encouraged by the atmosphere on this issue.”

Jenny Yang, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, World Relief:
“We believe that immigrants will contribute to the social fabric of our country and really build upon the values that our country was founded upon. … For many in the evangelical community, we strongly feel like we should not create bad policy for the sake of political expediency that will only kick the can down the road, but we should address this issue once and for all and really create a permanent pathway for immigrants to earn the right to stay in this country but also earn citizenship as well. [Earned citizenship] makes social sense, it makes economic sense, and for those in the evangelical community, it’s something that we meaningfully embrace as something that’s an important part of the immigration debate.”

 

PRESS RELEASE: Evangelical Leaders Launch S.C. Ad Campaign to Call for Bipartisan Immigration Solutions

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 13, 2013 — Today, the Evangelical Immigration Table announced an advertising campaign in support of immigration reform on 15 Christian radio stations in South Carolina. The advertisement, which will run at saturation levels for two weeks, features Spartanburg County Rev. Jim Goodroe, urging support for immigration reform based on biblical principles. Goodroe, who participated in the call, also co-authored an op-ed in today’s Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.

The Evangelical Immigration Table’s intensifying push to mobilize local and national evangelical support for bipartisan immigration solutions also includes the “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge, during which hundreds of evangelical congregations in 49 states are reading Scripture for guidance on immigration.

These efforts are building momentum as South Carolina legislators fill key roles in the evolving debate in Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham is part of a bipartisan group of senators that is drafting legislation, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, whose district includes Greenville and Spartanburg, is the chair of the immigration subcommittee in the House of Representatives.

The following quotes can be attributed to participants in today’s call.

Rev. Jim Goodroe, Director of Missions, Spartanburg County Baptist Network:

“As I’ve gotten to know immigrants, their stories have been varied and shed light on two aspects of immigration. The first is that many of those who are here as undocumented immigrants came legally, but for various reasons it’s been hard for them to go back to their home country. … These are good people who have added so much to our churches, our communities, and our economy …

“[Regarding] the path to citizenship, we’re not talking about amnesty, which has no repercussions. We’re talking about those who are willing to take on the additional responsibilities and obligations of citizenship. … Even the path toward citizenship is tough but needs to be fair …

 

Rev. Trey Doyle, First Baptist Church of York, York, S.C.:

“I believe that through even the most basic and essential practices of the local church in gathering around the Bible to seek the truth of Jesus Christ, we can find answers, we can discover guidance and support of even seemingly difficult issues like that of immigration reform. I believe the radio ads will further solidify the growing base of support for immigration reform. Finally, I also believe the new kind of coalition we are witnessing, the new kind of coalition forming around support for substantial immigration reform, is illustrative of God’s kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven. The congregation I serve with, and I suspect Christians everywhere, count opportunities to participate in the continual unfolding of God’s kingdom — a blessing indeed. … This is about faith for us and putting that faith into action.”

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association:

“The Bible teaching is changing the way evangelical opinion is being expressed on immigration. More and more leaders as well as people in the pews are beginning to speak out and say we want a just, humane immigration reform that will change the gridlock that has currently been dominating the discussion in Washington. … The campaign is rooted in our Christian faith and our belief that every human being is created in the image of God. …

“Once we get to know immigrants and their families and see who they are and the ways that they are contributing to this country and some of the very real challenges that they face, as Christians we are moved to really take action and to get involved.”

Dr. Richard Land, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention:

“This is an issue of conviction, it’s an issue of values, it’s an issue of bringing our biblical values to bear … We need to begin the process of stopping the pain and the suffering and the denial of basic human dignity that goes with a broken immigration policy. We believe this is an imperative for our nation. We believe that there is a comprehensive immigration reform package that can be passed, can be signed by the president, can be put into law … this year. Now is the time to do this. Those congressmen and senators who are standing up and going beyond the partisan divide to try to make this happen need to hear from those who support them …

“South Carolina is important both because Senator Graham has been part of the group of senators that have courageously been taking this issue on, working in a bipartisan manner with his Democratic colleagues as well as Republican colleagues in the Senate. … Lindsey Graham and Trey Gowdy and the other representatives from South Carolina need to hear from those who support them.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Evangelical, Other Faith Leaders Press for Immigration Reform in Meeting with President

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 8, 2013 — Members of the Evangelical Immigration Table and other faith luminaries met with President Obama today to discuss the need for commonsense immigration reform and the building momentum for it in Congress. The meeting took place as evangelical leaders and pastors encourage their flocks to reflect on the Bible’s words regarding how we treat our immigrant neighbors and mobilize in support of a better immigration process.

Evangelical leaders continue to support broad, bipartisan action as leaders in the Senate — four Democrats and four Republicans — develop legislation that will modernize and strengthen our out-of-date immigration process. The 40-day “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge encourages evangelicals to read a passage of scripture daily that relates to immigrants and pray for immigrants in their communities — and encourage their members of Congress to do the same. In addition, pastors are planning media campaigns in key states such as South Carolina to emphasize the urgent need for reform in 2013, including an eventual road to citizenship.

The following quotes can be attributed to faith leaders who met with the president today.

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief:
“In our meeting, we reiterated the importance of the faith community in not just advocating for immigration reform but in being a bridge to provide services to immigrants if immigration reform passes.  We specifically encouraged the President to consider the implications of passage of reform and to partner with faith-based organizations in helping immigrants in the integration process, specifically by providing immigrant legal service, and English and civics classes.”

Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President for Public Policy and Research, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“I was very encouraged by the immigration reform meeting with the President today. He spoke clearly about his desire to see us achieve passage of legislation this year. While many details remain to be worked out, the big pieces are in place. Secure borders, workplace enforcement, legal status for undocumented immigrants who qualify, and a citizenship process for those who desire to be U.S. citizens are all within reach.”

Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration:
“Our collective faith groups are prepared to support just and humane reform of a broken immigration system. With the president’s leadership and cooperation between both parties in Congress, we can achieve this goal within the year. We agree with the president and bipartisan Senate leaders who are stressing the importance of a path to citizenship for the undocumented. We should not sanction a permanent underclass in our society.”

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference:
“Today’s meeting invigorated me with hope and optimism. The president’s resolve in conjunction with evangelical support facilitate the prescription for a comprehensive resolution addressing America’s immigration crisis. I am convinced that with prayer and prophetic activism we will live out Matthew 25 and welcome the stranger in the name of Jesus. The collective commitment to incorporate a pathway to citizenship as an integral part of any legislative solution secures a complete integration process. Both the president and faith leaders understand that citizenship must be earned, yet denying it will create a two-tier society attempting to live one dream: the American dream.”

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition:
“Today’s meeting with President Obama is a clarion sign for Latino Evangelicals that immigration reform is possible. We need strong bipartisan leadership from Republicans and Democrats that finally creates a just and humane solution. Latino Evangelicals stand committed to see this through in ways that provide an earned path to citizenship while addressing any security concerns. Immigration reform now!”

Rev. Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners:
“The building momentum for immigration reform is proof that it’s still possible to lift up the common good, and not just political ideology, in Washington, D.C. The faith community has called for political action on immigration for years and is encouraged to see the leadership the president is taking. President Obama made clear how high a priority immigration reform is for him and the White House and that the involvement of the faith community will be an integral part of ensuring it passes. If the bully pulpit of the White House and the pulpits of the faith community speak to the moral issues at stake in this debate, we can accomplish a genuine, bipartisan solution to fixing our broken immigration system. I’m leaving the White House today encouraged that it can and will happen.

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Duke: immigration decisions show D.C. must act

By Tom Strode

http://www.sbcbaptistpress.org/BPnews.asp?ID=38208

WASHINGTON (BP), JULY 5, 2012 — Recent decisions by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the White House demonstrate anew the need for Congress to provide immigration reform, a Southern Baptist public policy specialist says.

The reiteration of a call for Congress to act on the controversial issue came from Barrett Duke of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) after:

Barrett Duke

Barrett Duke

— The Supreme Court struck down sections of an Arizona immigration law in its June 25 opinion but upheld a provision that requires a police officer to check the legal status in some cases of a person whom he detains or arrests before he is released.

 

— The Obama administration announced June 15 an executive action that will immediately permit illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to apply to be free from the threat of deportation and to seek authorization to work.

In its ruling, the high court voted 5-3 in favor of the federal government’s position by striking down sections of the 2010 Arizona law that: (1) outlaw the failure to carry proper immigration documents; (2) criminalize applying for or holding a job as an illegal immigrant, and (3) authorize a police officer to arrest without a warrant a person whom he believes has committed a crime that would cause him to be deported.

The June 15 White House order postpones action for two years against illegal immigrants who meet the requirements and provides the opportunity for them to renew that status. Among the criteria for eligibility, individuals must have been under the age of 16 when they came to the United States and not be older than 30 now. The order largely acts as a temporary fulfillment of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, legislation Congress has not passed.

The Supreme Court’s decision on the Arizona law “reaffirmed that immigration is a federal issue,” said Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research. “By doing so, it has emphasized the need for Congress and the White House to fix our nation’s broken immigration system with reforms that are workable and constitutional.”

The ERLC has called for comprehensive immigration reform for several years, but Congress has yet to approve such legislation.

The White House’s flawed action regarding young illegal immigrants again points to the need for a legislative remedy, Duke said.

“It’s astonishing that President Obama believes that he has the authority to tell our nation’s law enforcement arm which laws it should enforce and which ones it should not,” Duke said. “While I appreciate the president’s sentiment toward these young people, I am aghast at his lack of respect for the rule of law.

“We do not believe the children should be punished for the crimes of the parents,” he said. “Our nation should find a way for undocumented young adults who were brought here when they were children to obtain the education they desire and the legal status they need to fully contribute to our nation’s well-being and realize their full potential as well. This is a matter that Congress must resolve, not the White House through executive orders, and I hope it will do so soon.”

The ERLC has withheld support for the DREAM Act, but it has expressed a willingness to back a version of the proposal that meets certain criteria.

Last July, ERLC President Richard Land wrote two U.S. senators to say requirements for the entity’s support of such a bill would include:

— A program to make legal status possible should be available only to those who were brought into the country, likely by their parents, and did not enter as a result of their own decisions.

— The legal status gained by those in the program would not be transferred to family members or utilized to bring family members into the country.

— It would require those in the program to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces or attend college.

The program announced by the Department of Homeland Security June 15 includes the following conditions for individuals to qualify for the program:

— They must have graduated from high school, be attending school or be honorably discharged veterans of the military or Coast Guard.

— They must have been residents of the United States for at least five years.

— They cannot have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors, or be a threat to the public’s safety or national security.

The order will enable such individuals to apply for driver’s licenses and other privileges.

The executive action is a “temporary stopgap measure,” Obama said the day it was announced. He denied it is amnesty, immunity, a way to citizenship or a “permanent fix.”

As many as 1.4 million people may qualify for the new program, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization based in Washington, The New York Times reported.

The administration announced its order three days after a coalition of evangelical Christians released a statement calling for a “bipartisan solution” on immigration reform. The statement had 150 evangelical endorsers, including more than 20 Southern Baptists. Land and Bryant Wright, then-president of the Southern Baptist Convention, were among the signers.

Obama, as well as various evangelical leaders, also said the Supreme Court opinion on the Arizona law showed the need for Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform.

“A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system — it’s part of the problem,” Obama said.
Messengers to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials secure the borders, and with secure borders, establish “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.

Land has consistently called for comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship that would consist of such requirements as paying fines, undergoing a criminal background check, learning English, pledging allegiance to the American government, accepting a probationary period and going to the back of the line behind those seeking to enter the country legally.
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Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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