Much of the media coverage of the immigration reform debate has focused on political intrigue: whether there will be one bill or several, whether House Speaker John Boehner will allow a vote on a bill if less than half of his caucus supports it, whether newly naturalized immigrants and their allies will become Republican or Democratic voters. These questions provide fodder for small talk at cocktail parties inside the Beltway and endless analysis by political scientists and commentators.
But for the nation as a whole, the stakes are much higher. Everyone agrees that our current immigration system is broken. Prospective workers whose skills complement the American workforce confront daunting and in some cases insurmountable obstacles to legal immigration. Immediate family members, including spouses, face lengthy waiting periods. And those who, despite all odds, have successfully integrated into our communities without benefit of legal status remain in legal limbo, at constant risk of mistreatment, abuse and deportation.
Evangelical Christians are mounting an unprecedented multiethnic campaign for immigration reform because we believe it is the right thing to do. We want workable laws that meet our nation’s needs and that can be enforced and respected by all. We want secure borders that prevent the illegal entry of drugs and terrorists. We want to reunite and protect families and children. We want to offer undocumented immigrants the opportunity to acknowledge their wrong, make themselves right with the law, pay appropriate fines and penalties, get in line, and begin the long process of earning legal status and eventually, if they qualify, citizenship.
The message of the Evangelical Immigration Table is that we will work with members of both parties to encourage and support them as they work for legislation that upholds these principles. We take seriously the biblical call to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2) as they carry out their God-given responsibilities. Through the Pray for Reform campaign, more than 30,000 evangelical prayer partners are regularly praying for their members of Congress as they draft and debate legislation.
Over the August recess, evangelicals are attending congressional town halls, district meetings, and immigration reform roundtables. Our message is respectful, but urgent: We need action now, and we will support our leaders as they pass just laws. Those who cannot attend in person are praying for specific meetings and specific members of Congress. Local pastors are recording ads that will play on Christian and talk radio stations around the country. New participants continue to join the Pray for Reform campaign, receiving weekly updates with a specific focus for prayer.
Extremists on both the left and the right provide colorful footage for television cameras and outrageous comments suitable for tweeting. A majority of Americans, however, including most evangelicals, prefer a less sensational approach by both leaders and constituents. We expect our leaders to study the issues and discuss them calmly and rationally, among themselves and with their constituents. We seek, and expect them to seek, common ground for the common good. On immigration reform, such an approach is eminently possible. Legitimate concerns should be addressed, but no one should block reform for partisan gain.
Congressional leaders and political insiders say that the robust and passionate evangelical campaign for immigration reform may be the game changer that tips the scales and pushes reform across the finish line. We pray that is true. But we will leave the political analysis to the pundits. This August recess, we’re too busy mobilizing, educating, advocating, and praying for reform.
Galen Carey is the Vice President for Government Relations with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).