The new evangelical ethic around immigration reform

Over 150 prominent evangelical leaders have signed on to a national letter asking for common-sense immigration reform.

Recently, I was privileged to be a keynote speaker at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Flags. The topic that rallied evangelicals, business leaders, and law enforcement officials was immigration reform. Speakers like Grover Norquist and Alberto Cardenas made the case that immigration reform makes economic and business sense. The report from the Bi-partisan Policy Center reinforced the fact that common-sense immigration reform would help both the economy and contribute to reducing the deficit. Increasingly, the spurious economic arguments that create zero-sum winners and losers are falling away.  In short, the argument that economists and business leaders should call for immigration reform on economic reasons is gaining ground.

Yet, what really called my attention in those two-days of mobilization is the key support given by evangelical leaders. The Southern Baptists and the National Association of Evangelicals were all key parts of the program.  Evangelical pastors from all over the country including Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, and beyond came to argue a biblical case for reform. While evangelicals did not endorse a specific policy, the principles of balancing border security, fairness to taxpayers, family unity, and an earned path to citizenship were all highlighted.  Over 150 of the most prominent evangelical leaders including Jim Daly, Bill Hybels, Russell Moore, Leith Anderson, and Max Lucado have already signed on to a national letter asking for common-sense immigration reform.  In fact, the Public Religion Research Institute’s (PRRI) 2013 Immigration Survey shows that the majority of white evangelicals support immigration reform. If you add Asian, African, and Latino evangelicals, the numbers favoring reform are overwhelming. The question is: Why has evangelical support for immigration reform increased in the last several years? Simply put, evangelicals have a role to play in moving immigration reform forward. Our positions are informed by Matthew 25, Hebrews 13:2, Exodus 22:21, and Leviticus 19:33-34. While no policy is specifically endorsed by Scripture, the biblical principles overwhelmingly point to practicing hospitality while not imposing undue hardships on citizens. Common-sense immigration reform can do both.

I am encouraged that as the number of Hispanics evangelicals continue to grow many more evangelicals have joined the call for common-sense immigration reform. If the PRRI’s 2013 Hispanic Values Survey is correct, 13 percent of the close to 52 million Hispanics claim an evangelical identity.  That would put the number of Latino evangelicals at about 7 million –many of them living in key electoral states.  It was not lost on me that the relationships Hispanic evangelicals have been cultivating are influencing the direction of evangelicalism in America.  I can only imagine the same is true of business as highlighted by the growths of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce throughout the country.

Relationships matter!  As we worship, pray, and read the Bible together we are challenged to examine our assumptions anew.  As our children go to Sunday School and sing together in children’s choir the words of Jesus, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” take on fresh meaning.  As I closed in a prayerful thought at the Chamber of Commerce, my questions to my sisters, brothers, and friends in the audience came from St. Augustine, “What is the summa bonum (highest good) when it comes to immigration reform?  We can do better.  As a Christian, I know we can and must do better.  Inaction on a broken system is not a viable option.

Image courtesy of Korean Resource Center.

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  • WmarkW

    They’re hoping for pro-life voters.

  • WmarkW

    They’re hoping for pro-life voters.

  • p_komisky

    I checked the references to the bible and found the word sojourner in them
    The definition of sojourner is not the same as immigrant.
    A sojourner is some one who is temporarily in the country.
    It is not an immigrant. So these evangelicals are all ignorant of the meaning
    of the bible.

  • p_komisky

    I checked the references to the bible and found the word sojourner in them
    The definition of sojourner is not the same as immigrant.
    A sojourner is some one who is temporarily in the country.
    It is not an immigrant. So these evangelicals are all ignorant of the meaning
    of the bible.

  • kerthialfad

    What about the high unemployment rate in the US today? Don’t church leaders care about their congregations? The US is the 3rd most populous nation on the planet, after China and India. We have higher immigration rates than any other nation.
    I think God would let us off the hook, if we refuse to import the entire population of the planet into our borders. Actually, i have it firsthand from God, that’s it’s ok for the government to have some tinsy-weensy limits on immigration. Yes, he did tell me that. Amen.

  • kerthialfad

    What about the high unemployment rate in the US today? Don’t church leaders care about their congregations? The US is the 3rd most populous nation on the planet, after China and India. We have higher immigration rates than any other nation.
    I think God would let us off the hook, if we refuse to import the entire population of the planet into our borders. Actually, i have it firsthand from God, that’s it’s ok for the government to have some tinsy-weensy limits on immigration. Yes, he did tell me that. Amen.

  • eg55

    What is your point? Are you Racist, or selfish? Perhapes a HATER.

  • eg55

    What is your point? Are you Racist, or selfish? Perhapes a HATER.

  • conlibe

    Because they’ve finally asked themselves:

    “What would JESUS do?”

    And they KNOW the answer…
    Jesus would take a humane approach…
    He’d hug and feed and clothe immigrants – he would NOT call them nasty names or describe them in
    de-humanizing terms.

    Evangelicals CANNOT say they love Jesus and are Christians – then turn around and act like the Pharisees – MORE concerned with upholding the LAW, than being humane!

    Churches SEE the face/results of America’s broken immigration system. They, more than anyone, need to lead the non-political banner for Reform!

  • conlibe

    Because they’ve finally asked themselves:

    “What would JESUS do?”

    And they KNOW the answer…
    Jesus would take a humane approach…
    He’d hug and feed and clothe immigrants – he would NOT call them nasty names or describe them in
    de-humanizing terms.

    Evangelicals CANNOT say they love Jesus and are Christians – then turn around and act like the Pharisees – MORE concerned with upholding the LAW, than being humane!

    Churches SEE the face/results of America’s broken immigration system. They, more than anyone, need to lead the non-political banner for Reform!

  • hillcat

    When talking about immigration reform, can we not focus only on Latinos or undocumented immigrants? Big IT and financial consulting companies are abusing L1A, L1B, B1, H1-b and EB1 VISAs to steal American’s jobs and suck American’s cash. How can we not do something to stop it?

  • hillcat

    When talking about immigration reform, can we not focus only on Latinos or undocumented immigrants? Big IT and financial consulting companies are abusing L1A, L1B, B1, H1-b and EB1 VISAs to steal American’s jobs and suck American’s cash. How can we not do something to stop it?

  • 00092583

    “Common sense immigration reform” doesn’t mean amnesty. It means enforcing the immigration laws. There have been 7 amnesties recently, including the huge 1986 amnesty, each one only resulting in ever-increasing illegal immigration. We haven’t had honest enforcement of the immigration laws for decades, and under Pres. Obama, the whole enforcement apparatus is being systematically dismantled.

    Millions of people all around the world would like to come to the U.S. live, and there isn’t room for them. These religious advocates should go to the countries that immigrants are fleeing and help citizens there develop a society that can provide acceptable living standards. That’s what real Christians would do. Instead, we see many highly-placed church officials taking the lazy, easy path, piously inviting everyone in the world to come to the U.S.

  • 00092583

    “Common sense immigration reform” doesn’t mean amnesty. It means enforcing the immigration laws. There have been 7 amnesties recently, including the huge 1986 amnesty, each one only resulting in ever-increasing illegal immigration. We haven’t had honest enforcement of the immigration laws for decades, and under Pres. Obama, the whole enforcement apparatus is being systematically dismantled.

    Millions of people all around the world would like to come to the U.S. live, and there isn’t room for them. These religious advocates should go to the countries that immigrants are fleeing and help citizens there develop a society that can provide acceptable living standards. That’s what real Christians would do. Instead, we see many highly-placed church officials taking the lazy, easy path, piously inviting everyone in the world to come to the U.S.

  • bluesdoc70

    “hospitality”? I see. And that includes sticking a knife in the back of legal and native born American workers.

  • bluesdoc70

    “hospitality”? I see. And that includes sticking a knife in the back of legal and native born American workers.

  • SimonTemplar

    There has been a path to citizenship in this country since it’s founding. How else could our country be a “country of immigrants”.

    I do not see how enacting the lefts version of immigration reform will be good for American workers. I can see how it will benefit American companies. They can have cheap labor while being able to say that their product is “Made in the USA.” I see how it will help leftist Big Government as the dramatic increase in immigration, adding lower wage workers to the workforce (pushing native born workers out of the workforce) will provide more leftist voters and tax payers.

    I not with interest the author did not lay out a detailed definition of exactly what “common sense immigration reform” looks like.

    I do not see undue hardships being visited upon illegal aliens. I understand that in some states, they go to public school for free and get free medical care. I seem to remember reading that they even get college grants.

    Vague references to nice sounding ideals (common sense immigration reform) with no substantive details, appeals to emotion, dubious use of scripture as a means of coercion…this all looks more like leftist propaganda to me.

  • SimonTemplar

    There has been a path to citizenship in this country since it’s founding. How else could our country be a “country of immigrants”.

    I do not see how enacting the lefts version of immigration reform will be good for American workers. I can see how it will benefit American companies. They can have cheap labor while being able to say that their product is “Made in the USA.” I see how it will help leftist Big Government as the dramatic increase in immigration, adding lower wage workers to the workforce (pushing native born workers out of the workforce) will provide more leftist voters and tax payers.

    I not with interest the author did not lay out a detailed definition of exactly what “common sense immigration reform” looks like.

    I do not see undue hardships being visited upon illegal aliens. I understand that in some states, they go to public school for free and get free medical care. I seem to remember reading that they even get college grants.

    Vague references to nice sounding ideals (common sense immigration reform) with no substantive details, appeals to emotion, dubious use of scripture as a means of coercion…this all looks more like leftist propaganda to me.

  • Desertdiva

    It’s time these churches all lose their non-profit status since they no longer practice separation of church and state. Religion gets into politics then expect a backlash that will cost churches big bucks.

  • Desertdiva

    It’s time these churches all lose their non-profit status since they no longer practice separation of church and state. Religion gets into politics then expect a backlash that will cost churches big bucks.