Yahoo News reports this morning that the National Evangelical Association:
"is seeking to rally support for comprehensive immigration reform. The campaign begins with a full-page ad Thursday in Roll Call, a Washington newspaper that covers Congress."
More from the article:
"The association, which includes members from 40 evangelical denominations, reached consensus on the issue of immigration reform in 2009 — almost two years after President George W. Bush's failed attempts to reform immigration — by focusing on the biblical material that supports immigration. (The group took no official stand on the issue during the last congressional debate.) The group's 2009 resolution on immigration includes several paragraphs citing scriptural authority..."
From the 2009 resolution:
"The United States of America is a country founded by immigrants, and its history has been characterized by waves of immigrants from different parts of the world. Immigrants will continue to be an essential part of who we are as a country. Our response to immigration must include an understanding of this immigrant history and an awareness of the positive impact of multiple cultures on national life over the last 250 years...
"Building upon biblical revelation concerning the migration of people and the values of justice and compassion championed in For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility, we urge: (a few excerpts...)
"...That the government establish more functional legal mechanisms for the annual entry of a reasonable number of immigrant workers and families.
"...That the government recognize the central importance of the family in society by reconsidering the number and categories of visas available for family reunification, by dedicating more resources to reducing the backlog of cases in process, and by reevaluating the impact of deportation on families.
"...That the government establish a sound, equitable process toward earned legal status for currently undocumented immigrants, (!) who desire to embrace the responsibilities and privileges that accompany citizenship." (my emphasis)
Now I'll have to admit this whole thing just floors me. At first I simply assumed that the real evangelical heavy hitters would not have signed on to the resolution. But no, one of the signatories is none other than the ultra conservative Richard Land - head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Since I've had occasion to disagree with Mr. Land's views on more than one occasion, I headed over to the ERLC to see if I could find out what's going on.
Well naturally, as usual I found Mr. Land's views to follow a rather Gumby-like contortion of logic. But amazingly, he says this:
"Proper reform should consist of a program that provides an earned pathway that requires an illegal immigrant who desires to remain legally in the U.S. to undergo a criminal background check, pay a fine, agree to pay back taxes, learn to speak, write, and read English and get in line behind those who are legally migrating into this country in order to apply for permanent residence after a probationary period of years. They must also acknowledge and pledge allegiance to America’s governmental structure, the duties of citizenship and our core values as embodied in the Declaration of Independence. People who fail background checks or who refuse to comply with this generous opportunity to earn legal status, should be deported immediately.
This is not amnesty." (my emphasis - again)
Well no, no it is. He's dressed the whole thing up with a lot of stern language, but at the end of the day, what he's saying is that millions of illegal immigrants should have the right, by law, not only stay in this country but to become citizens. And all it really amounts to is amnesty obscured by a little gobbledigook.
Just to set the record straight... Sure, I believe every nation has the right to secure borders. But on the other hand I've always believed the vast majority of immigrants who got here illegally should be given a fair chance to become citizens. Most of them didn't come here to sell drugs or start gangs. What they came here for is the chance to better their lives and pursue the American Dream, just like the rest of us who were so blessed to have been born here.
Steve, this is big. The whole idea of amnesty is a huge flash point in American politics. And I don't think I'm being biased to observe that, despite the laudable efforts by G.W. Bush to introduce rational immigration reform, conservatives have generally been against it. To me, this new push by the National Evangelical Association represents the start of a huge paradigm shift.
What are your thoughts?