In the latest faith-based immigration effort, a group of Evangelical leaders and hundreds of conservative grassroots advocates joined Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) yesterday to discuss the need for bipartisan support on an immigration bill. Today, a large group of Arizona faith leaders (Evangelicals, Christians, Catholics and members of the Jewish faith) planned to meet with Senator John McCain and the White House to urge immediate action on immigration reform and a repeal of Arizona’s enforcement law. This is not the first time the religious community has called for immigration reform, but the harsh Arizona law has led to greater urgency within the faith movement—especially among Evangelicals. Much like the rest of the country, religious leaders are pressing the federal government for a solution that goes beyond enforcement, arguing that family unity, legalization and integration issues must be resolved as well.

In a full page Roll Call ad today, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) urged Congress and the President to pass reform that ‘respects the God-given dignity of every person, protects the unity of family, respects the rule of law, secures our border and ensures a path to citizenship for those who wish to become permanent residents.’

While some may dismiss these words as mere religious rhetoric, the religious community has and continues to provide a powerful voice in the immigration debate. The NAE alone represents 45,000 local churches, 40 different denominations and millions of people nationwide—including a large and growing Hispanic constituency. The NAE, for one, is tired of Congressional inaction on reform. NAE President, Rev. Leith Anderson, demands bipartisan reform now for the sake of family unity:

The law the way it is now is not pro-family, and evangelicals are, at our heart, pro-family. We have people who have waited five, ten years to have their families reunited. We have already waited too long. Bipartisan reform needs to be done now.

The religious community is also standing up against those on the right who refer to a legalization program as “amnesty.” Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, railed against those who tend to type “illegal” in capital letters.

Those who say that making someone pay a fine, get to the back of the line, learn English and take a civics class in order to get legal status is ‘amnesty’ need to take a remedial English class themselves … They may be conservatives, they may be social conservatives, but they’re not evangelicals.”

Nor is the religious community happy about Arizona’s enforcement law—a result of the federal government’s failure to act on reform. The Liberty Council issued the following in a recent statement:

The crisis the country is witnessing in Arizona over immigration is the result of a failed immigration policy at the federal level. Arizona lawmakers felt compelled to act because the federal government would not. We do not agree that the Arizona law was the wisest course of action because immigration is a federal and not a state responsibility. It is the federal government’s failure that has led to the current crisis. The Arizona law is a symptom and a cry for help.

The religious community is just one voice—a voice which continues to get louder—of many calling for congressional action on immigration reform. How many more need to speak out before Congress gets the message?

Photo by freefotouk.