Immigration reform back on agenda

With Hispanic voters flexing their muscles in the 2012 election, evangelical leaders are renewing calls for bipartisan immigration reform.

By Bob Allen

Stymied by gridlock during President Obama’s first term, supporters of comprehensive immigration reform are encouraged by talk of bipartisanship from Republican leaders in the wake of a stunning defeat, attributed in large part to Hispanic support for Democrats.

Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, managing director of Resource Development at American Baptist Home Mission Societies, said recent comments by House Speaker John Boehner that he would make overhauling the nation’s immigration system a priority make the issue “timely and worth another look by Baptists.”

Earlier this year American Baptist Home Mission Societies devoted an entire issue of The Christian Citizen to the church’s response to immigration, particularly with regard to an estimated 10-12 million people referred to as “undocumented,” “unauthorized” or “illegal” immigrants.

AlexanderAundreiaAundreia Alexander, national coordinator for immigration and refugee services for American Baptist Home Mission Societies, said in an editorial that opinions range from viewing such people as a threat to the nation’s cultural fabric and economic stability to the idea that the nation should have unrestricted borders and no laws against immigration into the United States.

“At the heart of U.S. American values and Baptist tradition is the freedom to hold and express one’s own opinions,” she said. “However, on the highly charged immigration issue, the debate is fueled by a great deal of misinformation. Strong passions blended with inaccurate information can lead to chaos.”

She said the magazine issue attempted to “provide resources, dispel myths and broaden the conversation,” in hopes that all will “pause and assess the immigration issue from the ethic of Christian love.”

Fresh off the Nov. 6 election, Boehner (R-Ohio) told Diane Sawyer on ABC World News immigration reform is “an important issue that I think ought to be dealt with” and that he was “confident” Congress and the White House could come up with a comprehensive immigration solution.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) restarted bipartisan talks that were cut off two years ago when the Republican Party strengthened its opposition to President Obama’s agenda.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said immigration reform is “a top priority” for Obama’s second term. While it is too early to outline specific steps, Carney said, it is “something that we have to get done.”

In exit polling by the Associated Press, just 3 in 10 voters said that most illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be deported. Nearly two-thirds said such people should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.

On Nov. 13, a diverse coalition of evangelicals including Sojourners President Jim Wallis and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land released an open letter requesting a meeting to discuss bipartisan immigration reform within 92 days, the number of times that the Hebrew word for “immigrant” occurs throughout the Bible.