evangelical immigration table
One of the most meaningful things I get to do in my work as a Ph.D. student in political science is assist Jim Wallis with a course he teaches at Georgetown every fall titled "Faith, Social Justice, and Public Life." Jim is well known as the founder and leader of Sojourners and as a lifelong advocate for social justice. Through lectures, discussions, and guest speakers, our students learn about how and why clergy and lay people of various religious backgrounds advocate for public policies as expressions of their faith commitments. This fall, the push for comprehensive immigration reform was one of the case studies we examined with our students.
I'm no expert in immigration policy. But, as a political scientist, I can offer an informed assessment about when, why, and how the House of Representatives will pass the reform in 2014. This will be the subject of a future post. For now, though, I want to highlight some distinctive features of the debate that I have noticed as an observer of religion in American politics. I do have a layman's interest in the theological justifications being offered in support of (and, perhaps surprisingly, against) comprehensive immigration reform. But for now, I will focus mostly on the politics.
In the short three months that I have been at Sojourners as the director of individual giving, I’ve been humbled and inspired by the countless social justice activists who make up our community. In these three months, I have witnessed activism for immigration reform, a vigil for those most affected by congressional dysfunction, organizing for climate change, a prophetic stand for racial justice, the launching of a new campaign to empower women and girls, and much more.
“This is a day that the Lord has made.”
Those words begin a very popular worship song among evangelical Christians. And they were the first words that came to my mind when I stood alongside the widest spectrum of evangelical leaders we have ever seen at a gathering yesterday morning on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. We were there to lead a day of prayer and discussion with the leaders of the House of Representatives about the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform — more specifically to fix a system that is not only broken, but cruel for millions of people.
The whole day was sponsored and led by the Evangelical Immigration Table, one of the most hopeful signs in many years of how Christians can come together to make a difference. At the press conference, Christianity Today editor Andy Crouch, speaking as a journalist, said he has never seen such evangelical unity over any other issue
On Monday I watched as my young DREAMer friends pause to pray from the “other side” of the fence in Nogales, Mexico before attempting to cross the border back into the Arizona. Rev. John Fife, founder of the Sanctuary Movement, walked with his hand on the shoulder of Marco Saavedra. As he approached the border, a reporter asked Marco if he had anything to say. “Perfect love casts out all fear,” he said. Then he stepped forward into the unknown.
All nine immigrant youth leaders grew up in the U.S., some of them qualify for Deferred Action for Childhod Arrivals, therefore are DREAMers. They chose to leave the U.S. to accompany their undocumented peers, who also grew up here, but who left or were deported because of a broken immigration system. They and their families are victims of the broken U.S. border policy. So “documented” and “undocumented” youth, standing together for justice, met on the Mexico side of the border an attempted to cross back into the U.S. together. They were immediately arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and are now detained at the Correction Corporation of America’s private detention center in Eloy, Ariz.
Evangelical leaders pushing for comprehensive immigration reform will be back in Washington next week, praying and lobbying on Capitol Hill.
They’ll need all the help they can get — divine or otherwise — after the Senate’s immigration reform bill hit a brick wall of opposition in the Republican-controlled House.
Dozens of Catholic university presidents sent a letter Thursday to Catholic members of Congress urging them to act, declaring, “We are part of an immigrant church in an immigrant nation.”
On the eve of the GOP immigration summit, during which Republicans will determine their position and strategy on immigration reform, the Evangelical Immigration Table held a press conference with national leaders to strongly urge House members to find the political courage to move forward on commonsense immigration reform.
“We have forgotten to engage in conversation and instead have focused on throwing stones at arguments,” David Cooper, President and Head of School at Front Range Christian School in Littleton, Colo., said.
Currently, hundreds of Evangelical Christians are expected to join in a day of prayer and action in Washington, DC on July 24, following the 92-day Pray4Reform challenge. During this challenge, people of faith across the country are taking a few minutes each day to lift up their political leaders in prayer as they consider the options moving forward. More than 25,000 prayer partners have signed up for the challenge since its start, and we welcome many more to join.
By a 68-32 vote, the Senate just passed S.744, a bipartisan immigration reform bill that people of faith have held up as part of a solution to the United States’ broken immigration system. While it still has to make its way through the House of Representatives, here are the top 10 things that would happen if S. 744 became law:
1. It would create a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans.
Current immigration law has no way forward for immigrants who don’t have the right documents. The Senate bill would open doors for them to become full members of society.
2. It would bring hope to lots of people.
Around 8 million of the 11.4 million aspiring Americans living in the shadows would be able to gain legal status, giving them hope and opportunity. That’s as many people as live in the entire state of New York – a huge impact.
On a recent Sunday morning, Jenny Yang stood beside a giant wooden cross and made a case for immigration reform to members of an evangelical church.
“As Americans, we have a responsibility when the laws are not working for the common good to change them,” she intoned from the pulpit.
The talk was part of a broader, cross-country effort to persuade evangelicals to back the bipartisan immigration bill that’s working its way through Congress.
What I have heard after visiting 18 cities in six weeks is that people around the country believe that nothing can happen in Washington, D.C. They are basically right. So I am very grateful today to report the one exception.
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a new comprehensive immigration reform bill with a bipartisan vote. Did you hear that: “bipartisan.” Amid heartbreaking news of the destruction, grief, and heroism we have seen in Moore, Okla., from one of the worst tornados in American history, millions of Americans found a reason to be hopeful.
This historic immigration bill now goes to the full Senate, where it has a real chance of passing and changing the lives of 11 million aspiring Americans. These are the “strangers” talked about throughout the Bible, and about whom Jesus said, in Matthew 25: how we treat them is how we treat him. That realization has caused a literal biblical conversion in the evangelical Christian community, which with the help of law enforcement officials and business leaders has done the impossible — changed Washington, D.C.
Self-interests, special interests, and even conflicting principles all put this life-changing proposal in grave danger. But in a town defined by gridlock, a group of eight senators crafted a bipartisan proposal that passed with only minor change. The bill reflects agreements reached by the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce; imagine that. It isn’t perfect and no single legislator got everything she or he wanted, but the key elements that many of us have been fighting for are intact. That really is a triumph of the common good.