Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Testifies before United States Senate Committee on Faith and Immigration Reform, Sister Organization, National Association of Evangelicals Passes Immigration Reform Resolution
Hispanic NAE Applauds Sister Organization, The National Association of Evangelicals, for Passage of Immigration Reform Resolution; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Testifies at Senate Hearing on Faith and Immigration(Washington, D.C., Hispanic Christian Newswire) America's largest Hispanic Christian Organization, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), The Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, participated in a historic vote led by the National Association of Evangelicals approving a comprehensive immigration reform resolution supporting a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented. "On behalf of our 25,434 churches, we commend and applaud today's resolution by our sister organization, the N.A.E. This is, without a doubt, a tipping point. We can no longer state that immigration reform stands as a Latino, immigrant or partisan issue. Today's resolution conveys a collective message on behalf of the Evangelical community that at the end of the day, immigration reform is a matter of justice firmly grounded on biblical truth," declared Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, NHCLC President. The historic vote came in the midst of scheduled association Fall meeting in Glenarden, Maryland. Hispanic NAE board members who also serve on the NAE board credited Dr. Leith Anderson for the resolution. "Without the leadership of Dr. Leith Anderson, this resolution would never have materialized. His heart and commitment to the Kingdom and his missional perspective enabled him to serve as advocate for a compassionate and biblical solution to the immigration reform debate," stated Dr. Gilbert Velez, National NHCLC Chairman, NAE Board member and President of the Hispanic Mega Church Association. Hispanic NAE President, Samuel Rodriguez joined Leith Anderson, Michael Gerson, Cardinal McCarrick and Jim Tolle in testifying before the Senate subcommittee on Immigration Reform. Rodriguez addressed Senators Charles Schumer, John Cornyn and Jeff Sessions declaring that the soul of the American Nation stands tarnished as a result of the treatment of the immigrant community. "Every day that passes without comprehensive immigration reform adds tarnish to the soul of our nation. The question arises, can this nation be saved? Let us save this nation, not by providing amnesty but providing an earned pathway to citizenship. By doing so we will protect our borders, protect all families, protect our values and then and only then can we truly protect the American Dream," added Rodriguez.
NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVEThe Question Remains Immigration is coming back as an issue. And supporters of immigration say they are learning from their last defeat. By Arian Campo-Flores Oct 6, 2009 As Rep. Joe Wilson illustrated with his "You lie!" outburst during President Barack Obama's speech to Congress, the illegal-immigration issue remains as hot as ever. Lou Dobbs still fulminates about it most evenings on CNN. Conservative talk-radio hosts descended on Washington, D.C., last month for a “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” gathering, aimed at lobbying against "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. On the other side, the United We DREAM Coalition organized 125 events around the country a few weeks ago in support of a law that would legalize certain undocumented high-school graduates. Today's news may be dominated by the health-care debate, but a new battle over immigration reform looms ahead. As Obama repeated yet again last month, in an interview with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, "I am not backing off one minute from getting this done." He has appointed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to spearhead the administration's effort. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Luis Gutierrez are separately crafting bills that would address the key components of immigration reform: border enforcement, employer crackdowns, temporary work visas, and a path to citizenship for the undocumented. (The latter bill is expected to be introduced in the House later this month.) Given the conservative rage that flared up at town-hall meetings in August, this might not seem like the most hospitable climate in which to tackle such a toxic issue. Yet pro-immigrant groups insist that this may well be their moment. After their unsuccessful attempt to get legislation passed in 2007, they regrouped, studied what went wrong, and hatched a new approach. "The advocacy groups fighting for comprehensive reform will be better organized and more effective" this time around, says Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C. Two years ago, those advocates thought it was their time then. President George W. Bush supported an immigration overhaul that included a path to citizenship for the undocumented, and Democrats had just gained control of Congress. But the effort collapsed in the face of a furious grassroots rebellion over supposed amnesty provisions and opposition from most Republicans and some centrist Democrats. In the eyes of the antilegalization folks, the revolt was widespread. Americans "are just generally opposed to rewarding people who broke the law," says Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group that advocates reduced immigration. The bill's backers, on the other hand, believe they failed because of a small but effective adversary, and because of their own missteps. "We thought we were in a policy debate, and it turned out we were in … a political struggle colored by a culture war," says Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a pro-immigration organization. He concedes that his side underestimated the ferocity of the opposition to reform, even though they knew that immigration has always stirred deep divisions. "Politicians were afraid of the anti-immigrant forces and not afraid of the base in favor of immigration reform," says Sharry. In addition, that base suffered from internal rifts, including one between business groups that backed temporary worker visas and labor unions that opposed them. Leaders also wasted too much energy shoring up their own supporters instead of winning new ones, says the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which includes 25,000 Latino evangelical churches. "I spent more time reaffirming people we already had on our side, rather than meeting with [moderate] Blue Dog Democrats or Republicans." Yet conditions seem just as hostile today, if not more so. "The angry right is more angry now than they were two years ago," says Rosenberg. They're livid over the battered economy, over Democratic dominance in Washington, over the health-care fight. "We all know that if and when this heats up, the other side will go absolutely ballistic," says Sharry. "It will make the town-hall meetings look amateurish." The spectacle of right-wing upheaval worries Rodriguez. "If [Fox News's] Glenn Beck wants to incorporate an anti-immigrant plank within the tea party movement, we are in bad shape," he says. Despite all this, proponents of comprehensive reform point to some encouraging developments. For one thing, polling continues to show that a majority of Americans support a package that combines stricter enforcement of immigration laws with legalization of undocumented workers, provided they meet certain requirements. According to a Pew Research Center poll released in May, 63 percent of respondents supported a pathway to citizenship. Obama is also a more committed ally than Bush was, advocates say, and Democrats have firmer control of Congress. Moreover, Latino voters are feeling much more empowered after the 2008 elections. "Forty-four electoral votes went blue because of the Latino and immigrant vote in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida," says Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration group (though the claim is impossible to verify, higher turnout and stronger Democratic support among Hispanics undoubtedly contributed to Obama's victory in those states). Now, Noorani and others argue, it's time for the Democrats to deliver. But the pro-immigration forces know better than to take anything for granted this time. They're organizing grassroots activists to counter their opponents' arsenal: their databases of supporters, letter-writing campaigns, and talk-radio mobilizations. The National Immigration Forum and others launched the Campaign to Reform Immigration for America in June—a coalition that now includes more than 600 business, faith, labor, and immigrant groups. "Like it or not, policy debates are now campaign-style battles," says Sharry. "It's field, it's communications, it's policy, it's legislative strategy, and it's the electoral muscle to back it up." Rodriguez and his counterparts in the faith community travel to Washington weekly to buttonhole lawmakers. This time, he says, he's skipping those who are already on board. "We're reaching out to the Eric Cantors of the world," he says, referring to the conservative House Republican whip. Reform backers have also recast their arguments as well. In 2007, they often framed the discussion in moral terms ("this is the right thing to do") or policy ones ("this is the sensible thing to do"). Now, they're pursuing communications strategies that they hope will resonate more effectively. For Rodriguez, "it's a message of assimilation," he says. "Let's incorporate [immigrants] and permit them to become great productive Americans." Noorani offers a fiscal rationale. Why keep undocumented workers in an underground economy where they don't pay taxes, he asks, when instead, they could be contributing sorely needed revenue to the government? Immigrant advocates are also adopting a more pugnacious stance toward their adversaries. They plan to respond aggressively to attacks and perceived distortions. If conservatives employ xenophobic rhetoric, "we will not stand idly by," says Rodriguez. Republicans have already imperiled their future viability as a party by alienating Latinos, he argues. If they continue down this path, "it will be their death knell." Pro-reform groups are going on the offensive against those they consider immigrant bashers. A few weeks ago, America's Voice ran an ad in Roll Call noting that the Southern Poverty Law Center had designated FAIR a "hate group." (Mehlman, FAIR's spokesman, responds that the allegation is absurd and that the SPLC is a "discredited organization.") Meanwhile, a number of groups have launched a campaign calling for CNN to rein in Dobbs, citing his "racially charged conspiracy theories" and "hate speech," as a New Democrat Network press release put it. They've created Web sites, including dropdobbs.com and tellcnnenoughisenough.com, to rally those who are fed up with Dobbs's commentary. "It's not only offensive," says Jorge Mursuli, national executive director of Democracia U.S.A. "It's not fact. And it's being presented as fact on a network that calls itself 'the most trusted name in news.' " (A CNN spokesperson declined to comment.) Such skirmishes are just a taste of what's to come. Says Sharry: "This is going to be a knock-down, drag-out campaign."
Hispanic Leader Calls Immigration Resolution 'A Tipping Point' NAE president: 'Jesus was a refugee.'Published in CHRISTIANITY TODAY October 9, 2009 By David Neff On Thursday, the board of the National Association of Evangelicals endorsed without dissent a resolution that urges comprehensive immigration reform by the U.S. government. The resolution summarizes the biblical principles that should guide the needed change, but it stops short of endorsing any specific policy proposal. Read the Religion News Service coverage elsewhere on our site, and the resolution itself. Presenters for the Capitol Hill press conference that followed the vote on the resolution included NAE president Leith Anderson (who reminded those present that Jesus was a refugee), national director of the Vineyard USA Berten Waggoner, president of Elim Fellowship Ronald Burgio, and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) Samuel Rodriguez. The NHCLC serves 15 million Hispanic Christians and is an affiliate organization of the National Association of Evangelicals.
CITIZEN JOURNALISM: Evangelicals rally behind immigrantsby Bekah Grim THE WASHINGTON TIMES "Jesus was a refugee," said Leith Anderson, director of the National Association of Evangelicals, who, along with other evangelical leaders, advocated a pro-immigration stance at an Oct. 8 Capitol Hill press conference. They issued a resolution formulated from a faith-based perspective. Mr. Anderson also presented the organization's support of comprehensive immigration reform later that day at a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and citizenship. U.S. immigration policies are antiquated, laden with red tape and in need of a human rights approach to reform, the evangelicals said. Their amnesty approach drew detractors. "By the grace of God, each American benefits from membership in one of the most just, merciful and righteous bodies politic that has ever existed," said James R. Edwards Jr., a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. "But just because the United States stands in the world as a beacon of liberty and justice doesn't mean anybody who wants to come live in this nation can do so by their own will. Yet some 12 million or so people whose civic membership belongs to some other nation have forced themselves upon this nation." The evangelical group has taken positions contrary to some other Christian right views in recent years. For example, in 2007 it renounced torture and "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees." Other evangelical leaders have either resisted that view or remained silent on the issue. The four-page resolution issued Thursday rests on biblical foundations and cites instances in the Old and New testaments in which refugees fled their lands because of hunger and war. The resolution describes God's special grace shown to those individuals. It goes on to cover many corners of the immigration issue, from advocating that borders be safeguarded with respect for human dignity to encouraging fair-labor and civil laws for legal immigrants. The language of the document does not focus on pity for immigrants, but rather on equality in human rights, calling them "brothers and sisters." The recent evangelical involvement marks the growing interfaith voice in the immigration debate, which the Center for American Progress has called "a sweeping grass-roots movement." Organizations such as Catholic Social Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition have moved to the forefront of immigrant rights, rallying other denominations to join the effort. The Interfaith Immigration Coalition organized 167 prayer vigils in 133 cities in February to protect immigrants and raise awareness for comprehensive reform. The editors of the Christian magazine Sojourners have created a six-week devotional guide, "Strangers in the Land," for personal meditation on the connections between immigration and religion. The National Association of Evangelicals represents 40 denominations and millions of evangelicals nationwide. Supporters said its traditional position on policies that support family values is an important motivator for recent involvement. Many of the pastors at the Capitol Hill meeting spoke of personal encounters with immigrants' stories in their local churches. Mr. Anderson, president of the association, is also the pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., which donates 10 percent of its ministry fund to immigrant support services. He described a woman he knows who came as a legal refugee from Africa with her son. "When her son turns 18, he will no longer have legal status and will have to go back to Africa, where he does not know the language or have a job," Mr. Anderson said. "She is overwhelmed by the quagmire of regulations. This is obviously not right." "Our churches and communities have been blessed by immigrants, many of whom bring strong faith, entrepreneurial energy and traditional family values that strengthen our future," said Galen Carey, NAE director of government affairs. "At the same time, some of our communities have struggled to cope with the impact of unregulated immigration." The resolution recommends that immigration reform respect several fundamental principles:
- Immigrants should be treated with respect and mercy.
- National borders must be safeguarded with efficiency and respect for human dignity.
- Immigration laws should recognize the central importance of the family and provide for reduction in backlogs for family reunification.
- There should be a clear and workable system for legally admitting an adequate number of immigrants to meet both work-force and family-reunification needs.
- There must be a sound, equitable process for currently undocumented immigrants who wish to assume the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship to earn legal status.
- There should be fair labor and civil laws for all who reside in the United States, reflecting the best of our nation's heritage.
- Immigration enforcement must recognize due process of law, the sanctity of the human person and the incomparable value of family.