Supporters of immigration reform gathered near the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday (June 25) during a week of daily prayer gatherings organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table. Sojourners staffers and supporters read Scriptures and prayed as senators considered legislation. RNS Photo by Adelle M. Banks

Supporters of immigration reform gathered near the U.S. Capitol on June 25 during a week of daily prayer gatherings organized by the Evangelical Immigration Table. Sojourners staffers and supporters read Scriptures and prayed as senators considered legislation. RNS Photo by Adelle M. Banks


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

WASHINGTON (RNS) Evangelical leaders pushing for comprehensive immigration reform will be back in Washington next week, praying and lobbying on Capitol Hill.

They’ll need all the help they can get — divine or otherwise — after the Senate’s immigration reform bill hit a brick wall of opposition in the Republican-controlled House.

Dozens of Catholic university presidents sent a letter Thursday (July 18) to Catholic members of Congress urging them to act, declaring, “We are part of an immigrant church in an immigrant nation.”

From Nuns on the Bus to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, religious forces have pressed lawmakers on a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. They were largely successful in the Senate, but the outlook is less clear in the more conservative House.

“If anyone should be able to speak to some of these House Republicans, it should be particularly some of these evangelical groups,” said Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, chair of the political science department at Gordon College, an evangelical school in Massachusetts.

Ruth. Photo courtesy of Gordon College in Massachusetts

Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, chair of the political science department at evangelical Gordon College in Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Gordon College in Massachusetts


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“They should really be heard … in terms of not only making a moral argument as to why Republicans ought to pay attention. I think many are making a very careful and prudent argument.”

Members of the Evangelical Immigration Table — whose membership draws from many of the same sources as the GOP — are promoting principles of human dignity, family unity, secure borders, respect for the rule of law and fairness for taxpayers.

In their letter to House members, more than 90 Catholic educators urged them to “draw wisdom and moral courage from our shared faith tradition” that values human dignity: “We remind you that no human being made in the image of God is illegal.”

The Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans, said he hopes they can help make a difference, especially for “children who made no choice in this matter but they’re penalized for it.”

The Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans.  Photo courtesy Loyola University New Orleans

The Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans. Photo courtesy Loyola University New Orleans


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“I’m just hoping that we can nudge at least some of the Catholic members of Congress,” he said.

According to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, almost one-tenth of the 535 members of Congress are graduates of Jesuit institutions. That includes 11 in the Senate and 41 in the House. Among them: House Speaker John Boehner, a graduate of Xavier University in Ohio.

Boehner has said the House will not consider “the flawed legislation rushed through the Senate” but he is open to a stand-alone bill that would offer legal status to children who entered the country illegally.

Proponents had hoped for House action before the August congressional recess. But Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, said more time could be a help.

“I think the faith community has a very good opportunity to speak with their elected representatives back at home,” said Paynter, who spoke at a July 10 forum on immigration reform at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

She said they can discuss how the economy could improve with a path to citizenship, and how churches could offer free English classes to people completing language requirements needed for a green card.

Jesuit university students confer with Christopher Kerr, Executive Director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, as they prepare to meet with Senator Barbara Boxer's staff to discussion immigration reform. Photo courtesy Ignatian Solidary Network

Jesuit university students confer with Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, as they prepare to meet with Senator Barbara Boxer’s staff to discussion immigration reform. Photo courtesy Ignatian Solidary Network


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

But as religious advocates push for reform, opponents are pushing back as well.

“They’ll do an ad in a district, but we’ll go to our evangelical members and have them calling up the congressman, identifying the church that they go to, and saying as an evangelical, I want you to put the interest of unemployed Americans first,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which opposes comprehensive immigration reform.

NumbersUSA says about a third of its members are evangelical.

Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, a fledgling ad hoc network, warned that comprehensive immigration reform will ease asylum. It sent a June letter to Congress — now signed by more 1,200 people — to say that not all evangelicals support the Evangelical Immigration Table.

Roy Beck, executive director and president of Numbers USA.  Photo courtesy NUSA

Roy Beck, executive director and president of NumbersUSA. Photo courtesy NUSA


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“They are getting to Congress members through a well-funded campaign, and also some important concerns about the need for reform,” said Kelly Monroe Kullberg, who spearheaded the letter and is president of Christians for a Sustainable Economy. “EBI desires both justice to citizens and kindness to guests.”

The Evangelical Immigration Table, which claims 25,000 prayer partners, is planning a “day of prayer and action” on July 24. Both evangelicals and Democrats warned GOP leaders not to ignore their base on this issue.

“As Republicans worry about making gains among constituencies that opposed them in 2012 — women, youth, Latinos, African-Americans,” Michael Wear, who oversaw religious outreach for Obama’s re-election campaign, wrote in The Atlantic, “they would be wise to not discount the chance that they stand on the precipice of losing the support of one of the strongest elements of their base: evangelicals.”

 

2 Comments

  1. David Thompson

    Yes those GOP Christian Conservatives would not really want to act like Jesus and have compassion. It’s more profitable to keep the immigrants illegal, so they can treat them more like slaves than humans. When they are illegal they will do more work, work for less, and of course no benefits. Jesus would be so proud. Thank god for Christianity; a religion to subjugate and oppress.

    When a GOP opens his/her mouth, nothing comes out that even resembles the teachings in the New Testament — Nothing! They are all hypocrites. “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Matthew 23 its about are current day Pharisees, the politicians.

  2. American or non-American is just a question of time; at one time you were not Americans and time will come many who are now non-Americans, will become Americans; so let us concentrate who and what you are at present, living in this country as a contributor since decades; there is a rule in some countries that if you live in a house or utilize a piece of land for x many years, you can actually claim to be the owner and do the necessary paper works to officially claim it to be yours. So much for the millions in shadows since decades who will be here forever. So the issue right in front of us did not just erupt and will not vanish away; it will stay.
    Before I talk about why we should or should not care about people outside our country who may or may not come here in the future, I want to refresh your memories that the U.S. has done a lot for many countries by supporting them and contributing in many ways that cost trillions of dollars. Therefore, we should not ‘worry’ too much about what they will think if we help these here and not those there …. unless we want to use it as an excuse.

    If immigration reform is passed – it will not only benefit millions in the shadows and our economy, but it will actually help those outside (future legal immigrants) BECAUSE IT WILL CLEAR THE PATH and they will no more need to wait for years to get their application processed …. this will start rolling the engine and the passengers will now, finally see the train actually coming towards them for boarding.

    The arm-wrestling that is going on between the parties and people being used as gadgets to strengthen the wrists, is not only in-human but it is embarrassing for the reputation of the U.S. being the super-power. Not to mention, the speeches of the female representatives open our eyes to the class they belong (lacking good manners, culture, sophistication, & education). So, who is to claim that these millions in the shadows are not standard enough to be allowed to be one of us?

    If God forbid, we have a civil war, the same people who are blocking and opposing the immigration reform, will be living in guilt forever to have not acted when they had the power.

    They worry about their seat (Districts) but they don’t worry about the Nation and the future of the party; it is like holding on to a chair but not worrying about the house; what will they do with the seat ? sit in the road-side all alone or worse, with people pointing their fingers at them blaming them for what they did or did not do?

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