Embedded within the fabric of the American faith community lies a clarion call and a prophetic supplication for national unity accompanied by an alignment of our core values. Values that include both security and compassion, the rule of law and welcoming the stranger, mercy and justice. Accordingly, the lack of passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation has created a reality where our Borders are yet fully secured and the immigrant families a long with the entire Hispanic American community find ourselves facing racial profiling, discrimination and a hostile ethnically polarized environment not seen since the days prior to the successes of the Civil rights movement. For at the end of the day this is not a political issue but rather one of a moral and spiritual imperative. An issue of justice firmly grounded on biblical truth. In scripture, the number twelve emerges as the foundational pillar of the Nation of Israel and as the initial composition of the followers of Christ. My prayer is that this Congress remembers another twelve. Twelve million people living in the shadows. Twelve million hiding in fear. Twelve million without rights, Twelve million without a nation, and without legal covering, Twelve million not knowing if today is the day they will be separated from their children. Twelve million people living in a land without the opportunity of ever experiencing the fullness of life, embracing the hope of liberty or pursuing the promise of happiness. Yet these 12 million carry one common commodity; hope. Hope that the President and members of Congress that ignited a movement and ushered in change will bring down the walls of political expediency and incorporate within immigration reform the bridge to assimilation and a pathway to the American Dream. Hope that this Congress who stands committed to saving the auto industries, our banks, homeowners and healthcare will similarly apply that saving grace and spirit to these 12 million souls. Hope and faith that this Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform. Via our 25,434 churches , the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, , stands committed in framing the moral imperative for CIR by reconciling both Leviticus 19, treating the stranger amongst us as one of our own and Romans 13, respecting the rule of law. Let us be clear. As Hispanic Christians, we stand committed to the message of the Cross. However, that cross is both vertical and horizontal. It is salvation and transformation, ethos and pathos, Kingdom and society, faith and public policy, Covenant and community, righteousness and justice. For example, as we deal with immigration, via the prism of the vertical and horizontal cross,, we humbly encourage Congress to finally pass and sign into law legislation that will protect our borders, put an end to all illegal immigration, create a market driven guest worker program and facilitate avenues by which the millions of families already in America that lack the legal status can earn such status in a manner that reflects the Judeo Christian Value system this nation was founded upon. But here lies the challenge; can we reconcile Leviticus 19 and Romans 13? Can we repudiate xenophobic and nativist rhetoric, push back on the extremes from both the left and the right and converge around the nexus of the Center Cross where righteousness meets Justice, border security meets compassion and common sense meets common ground? For the fact of the matter is that these immigrants are God fearing, hard working, family loving Children of God who reflect the values of our founding fathers and embrace the tenets of the American Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Moreover, our desire is for every immigrant in America to become a productive citizen, master the English language, embrace the core values of the American idea and realize the American Dream Finally, we understand that 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 by providing an earned pathway to citizenship. In the name of Justice, in the Name of righteousness, in the Name of The Divine, pass comprehensive immigration reform. By doing so we will protect our borders, protect families, and protect our values and in the end we protect the American Dream.
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 EXCLUSIVE
The 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 immigrants
by 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.
“Legal immigrants have trouble bringing over their extended family,” Mr. Anderson told The Washington Times. “If it takes 10 years, their children can be grown up by the time they get here. I think an important piece of our reform is to expedite the documentation process to reunite families.” As support for immigration accelerates within the evangelical movement, it may be slowed down by Congress. President Obama said at a summit in August that immigration reform must wait until 2010 as legislators focus on the health care debate. Berton Wagonner, national director of Vineyard USA, said churches must continue to serve immigrants in the meantime. “We must become prophetic moral voices,” Mr. Wagonner said. “We are advocates for the maginalized, and it is time to engage in acts of kindness to immigrants.”
Press Statement, Hispanic NAE , The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference In Response to National Association of Evangelicals Immigration Reform Resolution
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. Moreover, this resolution embodies the spirit of a message declaring that comprehensive immigration reform stems neither from the agenda of the donkey nor from the agenda of the elephant but rather from the agenda of the lamb. Correspondingly, we stand obligated to respond to the challenge before us. Can we reconcile Leviticus 19 and Romans 13? Can we repudiate xenophobic and nativist rhetoric, push back on the extremes from both left and right and converge around the nexus of the Center Cross where righteousness meets justice, border security reconciles with compassion and common sense marries common ground? Let us be clear, we humbly encourage Congress to finally pass and sign into law legislation that will protect our borders, put an end to all illegal immigration, create a market driven guest worker program and facilitate avenues by which the millions of families already in America that lack legal status can assimilate fully into our society. Our desire is for every immigrant in America to become a productive citizen, demonstrate proficiency in the English vernacular, embrace the core values of the American idea and realize the American Dream. To that end, I humbly pray, in the name of justice, in the name of righteousness, in the name of the Divine, let us pass comprehensive immigration reform. By doing so we will protect our borders, protect all our families, protect our values and then and only then can we protect the American Dream.
A New Voice for Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Religious Conservatives
U.S. News & World Report – Washington,DC,USA By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country October 23, 2009 – In advance of President Obama’s and the Democrats’ coming push for immigration reform, support for so-called comprehensive reform that would include a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants already in the United States is building among a surprising constituency: conservative religious activists. The effort includes not only socially conservative groups that have partnered with Democrats on other issues in the past-like the National Association of Evangelicals and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops-but also more staunchly conservative groups and figures closely aligned with the Republican Party. “There was this rhetoric in the last immigration debate that was, frankly, harsh,” says Mathew Staver, dean of the law school at Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. “We need to understand that we are still a nation of immigrants, and we need to bring people out of the shadows and make them legal.” Staver, who is leading the effort to bring conservative evangelicals and other religious conservatives on board for comprehensive immigration reform, says he’s motivated by biblical principles regarding the treatment of foreigners and by a desire to build bridges between the “pro-family” movement and growing ethnic constituencies. But the campaign may wind up dividing religious conservatives, some of whom helped lead the charge against George W. Bush’s failed attempt at comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. “Many of our members oppose comprehensive amnesty because of their faith,” says Colleeen Holmes, executive director of Eagle Forum, the conservative group founded by Phyllis Schlafly. “But this is really about conservatism versus liberalism, and conservatism says you need rule of law.” The Eagle Forum opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Staver can hardly be described as a liberal. Besides his Liberty University role, he heads Liberty Counsel, an advocacy group whose website describes it as “dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family.” After religious conservatives splintered among various Republican presidential candidates in the 2008 Republican primaries, Staver organized a new coalition, the Freedom Federation, to promote unity in the movement and to build bridges to constituencies that then candidate Barack Obama was courting but that had traditionally been neglected by conservative Christians: minorities and young people. Now, Staver is trying to build support among Freedom Federation members for comprehensive immigration reform. Part of his goal is to bring Hispanics into the conservative Christian political fold. “The future of the conservative movement is at stake in the debate about immigration reform,” says the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who has been helping Staver lobby conservative evangelical leaders on immigration. At a recent coalition meeting in Washington, Staver had former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee discuss his immigration views, which have been criticized as soft by many conservatives, with dozens of representatives from religious conservative groups. “Huckabee was attacked in the presidential race because he didn’t want to remove educational benefits for the children of illegal immigrants,” Staver says. “But that’s a biblical concept-you don’t punish the child for what his parents did.” A follow-up meeting in is planned for next month in Washington. Some conservative faith-based activists welcome Staver’s effort. “I am hopeful that we will adopt the position that the Freedom Federation will adopt,” says Rick Tyler, who runs a new group that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich launched to mobilize religious conservatives. “America is and was and will be and always should be a nation of immigrants.” Some Freedom Federation members, however-like Eagle Forum-remain strongly opposed to comprehensive immigration reform. Others, like Family Research Council Action, are still determining their position.