All posts from “Immigration”

June 15, 2012

Obama Administration Halts Prosecution of Some Young Immigrants

Homeland Security will now exercise prosecutorial discretion against those brought to the nation as children.

President Barack Obama will announce today a new policy that will affect around 800,000 young people who are in the U.S. illegally. The announcement comes on the heels of a call by a broad coalition of evangelical leaders to reform the nation's immigration system.

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The new policy applies to only some of the millions of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Homeland security will not prosecute immigrants who came to the country before their 16th birthday, are currently under the age of 30, and have lived in the U.S. for at least the past five years.

Immigrants who qualify must also be in school, finished high school, or be honorably discharged from the military. The policy will not apply to any immigrants convicted of a felony or who pose a threat to national security.

Secretary Homeland Security Janet Napolitano wrote a memo explaining the new policy, where the Department of Homeland Security will exercise its prosecutorial discretion by no longer pursuing cases against many of the young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. without documentation.

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June 29, 2011

SBC Vote Reveals Delicate Evangelical Support for Immigration Reform

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) adopted a new immigration resolution at its annual meeting held earlier this month in Phoenix. The resolution called on the government to secure the border and then provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The SBC said this path to citizenship should not be amnesty but should include “appropriate restitutionary measures.” The resolution passed, but not until after a debate that revealed the tensions many evangelicals feel over immigration.

Richard Huff, pastor of Corona de Tucson Baptist Church in Tucson, Arizona, proposed to eliminate the policy section of the resolution. At issue was the path to citizenship, a provision some saw as “amnesty” and a sanctioning of lawbreaking.

Resolution Committee chairman Paul Jimenez said his committee opposed the amendment. He called the original resolution "a realistic and biblical approach to immigration." He said that if the amendment passed the SBC work would be more difficult in areas of the country with more Hispanics.

A slim majority (766-723) voted against the amendment. Instead, additional language was added making clear that “this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.” The resolution then passed by a show of hands.

One of the supporters of the amendment was Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park in Buena Park, California. He said he is not against all of the resolution, just the “amnesty clause.”

“This is amnesty any way you phrase it,” Drake said. “Restitution? They don't need restitution. They need to go to work. We win people to Jesus. We get them jobs and we take them back to their country.”

Drake is a former vice president of the SBC who ran unsuccessfully for president of the SBC this year (receiving just 4 percent in a two-person race). He has been controversial in recent years for his leadership in the so-called “birther” movement; Drake called Obama an “evil illegal alien.” Most infamously, Drake prayed for the death of President Obama if he does not “turn to God.” In 2008, he called for prayer to end the lives of leaders of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Perhaps as a response, the SBC passed a “civil public discourse” resolution that specifically objected to the “calling for prayers for the deaths of public officials.”

Both the amendment and the final SBC resolution reflect a conundrum facing evangelical churches. Along with other evangelical churches, the SBC has supported immigration reform even though many in their pews hold negative views of immigrants.

A February poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds that white evangelicals are more likely to see immigrants as a burden than a strength. Pew found that evangelicals are twice as likely to see immigrants today as “a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care” than they are to say immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.” These views were similar—but still more negative—than other religious groups.

Hispanic Catholics and those who are not affiliated with any religion were the most positive toward immigrants, with a majority saying immigrants strengthen the country.


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Continue reading SBC Vote Reveals Delicate Evangelical Support for Immigration Reform...

May 12, 2011

Obama Calls Immigration Reform a 'Moral Imperative' at National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

President Obama continued his call for immigration reform at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast this morning, a similar call he made two years ago at the same breakfast.

Obama highlighted the work of faith leaders, including the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), on immigration.

That sense of connection, that sense of empathy, that moral compass, that conviction of what is right is what led the National Association of Evangelicals to shoot short films to help people grasp the challenges facing immigrants. It’s what led the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to launch a Justice for Immigrants campaign, and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition to advocate across religious lines. It’s what led all the Latino pastors at the Hispanic Prayer Breakfast to come together around reform.

Obama was likely referring to undocumented.tv, videos produced by World Relief, the relief and humanitarian arm of the NAE. He argued that immigration is not only an economic or security imperative.

It’s a moral imperative when kids are being denied the chance to go to college or serve their military because of the actions of their parents. It’s a moral imperative when millions of people live in the shadows and are made vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses or with nowhere to turn if they are wronged. It’s a moral imperative when simply enforcing the law may mean inflicting pain on families who are just trying to do the right thing by their children.

So, yes, immigration reform is a moral imperative, and so it’s worth seeking greater understanding from our faith. As it is written in the Book of Deuteronomy, “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” To me, that verse is a call to show empathy to our brothers and our sisters; to try and recognize ourselves in one another.

The Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr., president of Esperanza, the organization sponsoring the event, gave him a Bible before Obama's speech.

"I was told this will help improve my Spanish," Obama said to laughter. "And I said, 'I’ll pray on it.'"

December 9, 2010

Senate Blocks DADT, Delays DREAM Act

Senate Republicans blocked an effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" today, garnering 57 of the 60 votes needed. The Senate attempted a vote in September to change the military's policy barring openly gay members from serving.

One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voted yes. The Wall Street Journal reports that other Republicans were willing to support the repeal but said the Senate needed to consider tax and spending legislation first.

The Senate delayed a vote on the DREAM Act, which carves out a path to legal status for foreign-born children brought to the United States illegally. The House passed the the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act Wednesday. Last week, Regent University President Carlos Campo was included on a White House conference call supporting the DREAM Act.

May 14, 2010

Evangelicals Find New Unity on Immigration

In the shadow of Arizona's strict immigration law, a broad range of evangelical leaders are speaking in support of comprehensive immigration reform, with more specifics than some were able to embrace before.

At the same time, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, New York's Charles Schumer, is hoping evangelicals will nudge their allies in the GOP to push an on-again, off-again immigration bill through Congress.

The renewed push came in the form of a full-page ad in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, paid for by the National Association of Evangelicals, and a three-page policy proposal from Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal firm.

The NAE statement calls for keeping families intact, securing national borders, and establishing a path to legal citizenship for qualified people who want to become permanent residents.

"Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each others' positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions," the ad reads.

"This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate."

The Liberty Counsel blueprint was even more specific, calling for a "just assimilation" of those seeking legal citizenship that includes lessons in English and U.S. history. It says temporary worker visas recognize the need for "field workers to engineers" in U.S. companies.

"America deserves a just immigration policy," the statement said, "one that begins with securing, not closing, our borders, one that provides a temporary guest-worker program, and one that offers a pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency."

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April 23, 2010

Arizona Gov. Signs Strict Immigration Law

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona today signed an immigration bill into law that would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime. The law would also allow power to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.

The New York Times
reports that Democratic politicians are wary of taking up legislation before the fall elections. House leaders have said that the they would be willing to take up immigration policy if the Senate produces a bill first.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who also faces re-election, has pledged to pass an energy measure, and the Senate will likely hold confirmation proceedings this summer for a Supreme Court nominee.

After the jump, various evangelical groups respond to the legislation.

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March 22, 2010

Rallying for Immigration Reform

Health care stole the spotlight yesterday, but just blocks away from the Capitol, tens of thousands of people marched in support of immigration reform. Here's a story that includes several evangelicals who attended the march yesterday.

Today, several religious leaders met with senior White House officials to discuss immigration reform, including Sojourners head Jim Wallis and Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Here are statements from others:

Galen Carey, Director of Government Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals :

“We are pleased that President Obama and Members of Congress are finally giving long overdue attention to resolving the immigration crisis this year. Fixing our broken immigration system is important to the security and prosperity of all Americans, and particularly to the hardworking immigrant families who contribute so much to our churches and communities. Immigration reform can’t wait. We want action now.”

Rev. Rich Nathan, Pastor of Vineyard Church of Columbus, the second largest church in Ohio:
“As a pastor I have witnessed the brokenness of our immigration system firsthand. We have individuals from 75 different nations attending our weekend services. Some are here illegally to escape poverty and to make a better life, but now face only two options: to stay in the shadows or to be deported. In the Hebrew Bible, special provision is made for immigrants, along with orphans and widows, to safeguard the most vulnerable people in Israelite society. God’s call to people who value the authority of the Bible is clear: remember where you came from and act with justice and love towards the immigrant in your midst.”

Here are a few photos from the rally:

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June 19, 2009

Obama Urges Immigration Reform at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

President Obama told an audience at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast that the country must be guided by the principle "love thy neighbor as thy self" as it seeks immigration reform.

"We must also clarify the status of millions who are here illegally, many who have put down roots," the President said. ""For those who wish to become citizens, we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line, behind those who played by the rules. ...We must give life to that fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, that I am my sister's keeper."

The president started his speech with his usual reminder that America is a nation of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and non-believers and spoke about the importance of prayer.

"But prayer is more than a last resort," he said. "Prayer helps us search for meaning in our own lives, and it helps us find the vision and the strength to see the world that we want to build."

Here's a portion of the speech as provided by the White House:

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June 11, 2009

Christian Activists Push for Immigration Reform

Several Christian activists don't want to see immigration reform get left behind the administration's economic and health care concerns.

In a press conference on Wednesday, members of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR), a nonpartisan coalition of churches and other organizations, expressed urgency that immigration reform happen this year. "Every single day that we wait on immigration reform is more suffering we are inflicting on undocumented people," said Jim Wallis, President and CEO of Sojourners. "This is a matter of faith for us. The way we treat the stranger, the scriptures say, is the way we treat Jesus in himself. And the stranger, in the face and form of undocumented people, is not being treated very well."

Their objective might be challenged in the House by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and in the Senate by Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont), who want to add same-sex partners in the same category as spouses in new immigration legislation. Senator Leahy told The New York Times it was "a matter of fairness," while Honda said in the San Francisco Chronicle that "it's a civil rights issue."

Politico reported that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is withdrawing its support from the bill over the issue of gay rights. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told Politico that the addition of gay rights language was a "slap in the face to those of us who have fought for years for immigration reform." However, on Wednesday, Rodriguez indicated that the group's unity is their greatest asset when he said that "the strength of the coalition is stronger than anything that may arise in Congress."

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April 14, 2009

What would Jesus do about illegal immigrants and their children?

At noon today, rather than join friends at a baby shower with cake and cookies, I listened in during the press briefing concerning new research estimates on unauthorized immigrants (aka illegal immigrants) and their families.

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The report (click here) from the Pew Hispanic Center follows up on earlier research estimates and indicates there are 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the USA. (It is important to note that this is a projected estimate based on Census Data and other resources.)

Particularly fascinating to me is how the profile of the typical illegal immigrant has changed over time. It seems like, based on this research, a young dad with a young family, living in poverty without health insurance, and working in the AG sector of the US economy pretty much sums up the life and lifestyle of an illegal immigrant in 2009.

Here's the lede graphs from the Washington Post story:

The number of U.S.-citizen children born to illegal immigrants has dramatically increased over the past five years from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008, according to a study released today. The report by the nonpartisan, Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center also found that more than a third of such children were in poverty in 2007, compared with about 18 percent of those born to either legal immigrants or U.S.-born parents. Similarly, one in four U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants went without health insurance in 2008, compared with 14 percent of those born to legal immigrants and 8 percent born to U.S.-born parents. The findings suggest that the impact of the unprecedented spike in illegal immigration over the past three decades will continue to be felt for years to come, even as the size of the illegal immigrant population itself appears to have leveled off since 2006 at about 10.4 million adults and 1.5 million children.

(Photo: 2006, pro-immigrant protest)

During the press conference, reporters kept asking causal questions: Why has immigration leveled off? The bad economy or what? What is causing illegal immigrants to return home? What about the effects of new punitive legislation for those who hire illegal immigrants?

But the question rolling around in my head today is this:

What would Jesus do about illegal immigrants and their children?

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