Immigration Isn't Dead

By Joey Longley 6-11-2014
Supporters of immigration reform gathered near the U.S. Capitol on June 25, 2013. RNS Photo by Adelle M. Banks.

Yesterday was one of the craziest days in recent American political history. House Majority leader Eric Cantor fell to Tea Party economics professor David Brat in a primary upset no pundit saw coming.

While the early analysis suggested that support for immigration reform may have been what brought Cantor down, exit polling suggests his lack of attention to the concerns of his constituents and his inability to deliver on his promises were a greater factor than the immigration issue. Cantor never brought a vote on immigration to the floor and was never a strong ally on immigration.

Elsewhere across the South, pro-immigration reform Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and Senator Lindsay Graham have easily won their primary battles that largely focused on immigration.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released an immigration poll at the Brookings Institute. Nearly 80 percent of all Americans and nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants remain in support of immigration reform that includes a path towards citizenship or legal status. The poll shows the broad support for immigration reform nearly unchanged since PRRI’s March 2013 poll that showed 77 percent of all Americans and 67 percent of white evangelical Protestants in favor of a path to citizenship or legal status.

“Even amidst inaction by Congress, support for a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally remains remarkably broad,” said Robert P. Jones, PRRI CEO. “In today’s polarized politics, there are few major issues that attract this kind of bipartisan and cross-religious agreement.”

The PRRI poll showed 60 percent support for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship or legal status among the most conservative group polled, Tea Party Republicans. The consensus among Americans is clear: now is the time for a vote on immigration reform.

Even though there are plenty of political reasons that immigration reform should happen this year, this issue is ultimately about people, not politics. The broken immigration system hurts all Americans and we must seize this opportunity to make America a more welcoming place. Jesus makes it clear that our mission as Christians transcends politics. Matthew 25 says that how we welcome the stranger is how we welcome Christ himself.

Every day that immigration reform remains stuck in the House of Representatives:

  • More families are separated by our broken immigration system
  • Undocumented immigrants cannot fully contribute to the American economy
  • The rule of law is not maintained
  • Millions of people who want to live, work, and worship here are instead forced to live in the shadows and fear of deportation

The moral crisis of our broken immigration reform does not have to continue. Americans of every political stripe, religious creed, and ethnic background are demanding immigration reform. With Rep. Cantor stepping down from his role as Majority leader, this is the perfect time for Speaker Boehner to call the vote on reform that we so desperately need. We will find out whether Speaker Boehner will work for the broad consensus of the American people or if he will cater to the Tea Party extremists in his party.

Joey Longley is communications assistant at Sojourners. You can follow Joey on Twitter.

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