House Republicans Inch Toward Immigration

Three House Republicans have now signed the House Democratic comprehensive immigration reform bill, which is good—and surprising—news for people who hope to see immigration reform legislation pass this year. The bill’s most recent supporter is Representative David Valadao of California, whose district boasts a sizeable Latino population. Valadao’s actions follow those of his fellow GOP representatives Leana Ros-Lehtinen and Jeff Denham, both of whom signed the bill and expressed a belief that more House Republicans would follow.

Valadao’s statement regarding his support seems to indicate that he has (quietly) been a proponent of immigration reform for some time, and is now stepping up his level of support: “I have been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground on the issue of immigration reform. Recently, I have focused my efforts on joining with likeminded Republicans in organizing and demonstrating to Republican Leadership broad support within the Party to address immigration reform in the House by the end of the year. By supporting H.R. 15 I am strengthening my message: Addressing immigration reform in the House cannot wait. I am serious about making real progress and will remain committed to doing whatever it takes to repair our broken immigration system.”

That Valadao’s district has a large Latino population may be good or bad news for the bill, depending. It shows that the Latino voting bloc has power even among Republicans to affect
legislation, which is encouraging to proponents of a pathway to citizenship. However, very few House Republicans hail from districts with large Latino populations, which means that for bipartisan immigration legislation efforts to succeed, GOP representatives would need to start supporting the bill (or another) for different reasons—reasons besides that they may face tough re-election races if they fail to support immigration reform in a Latino-friendly enough way. And those different reasons may not prove powerful enough to swing House Republicans toward a pathway to citizenship—a measure without which, say Democrats, they will not pass comprehensive immigration legislation.

Valadao’s support comes after a push from the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group that sent a delegation to Washinton, D.C. earlier this week to exert pressure on lawmakers to act on immigration. Matthew Blanton, who traveled to Washington, D.C. this week with the Evangelical Immigration Table, told The State that conservatives support immigration reform. “With the financial crisis behind us, it is clear America wants Congress to work together towards pragmatic, commonsense solutions. Immigration reform fits that bill,” he said. “And considering the broad support across conservative circles, we want House leadership to move forward this year on legislation that will gain bipartisan support.”

Source: The Washington Post, “Immigration reform is definitely undead,” Greg Sargent,
October 30, 2013

Source: Huffington Post, “Conservatives Pushing Immigration Reform Say Piecemeal Approach Gains Steam,” Elise Foley,
October 29, 2013

Source: The State, “Upstate pastors in D.C. to push for immigration reform,” Ron Barnett,
October 28, 2013

Evangelicals Divided on Immigration Reform

Evangelical Christians have received some attention this year with regards to immigration reform. Many members of the historically politically conservative movement have voiced their support for immigration reform in recent months. But not all evangelicals are agreed on what immigration reform should look like.

In October, 100,000 supporters of the Evangelical Immigration Table pledged to pray for eight days for God’s guidance on the issue, and the group plans to head to Washington next week to pressure Congresspeople to act. The group supports a path to citizenship for the undocumented, quoting Jesus in Matthew’s gospel saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Jim Wallis, president of the progressive evangelical organization Sojourners, weighed in this week on the sudden evangelical support for immigrants. “Evangelicals finally realize that how we treat the stranger, these 11 million undocumented people, is how we treat Christ himself,” he said, adding that American evangelicals have “never been more united on an issue.”

Wallis’s appraisal seems to be inaccurate, however, as not all evangelicals—and very possibly, not even most—agree with the Evangelical Immigration Table’s stance on the problem of undocumented immigrants. Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration is one such group. The needs of the foreigner are less pressing than the needs of the home, they argue, and our first responsibility is to our homes. Kelly Kullberg, leader of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, has this to say on the subject, “While the Bible teaches us to be kind to the sojourner or ‘resident alien,’ it also teaches that kindness to the sojourner ought not to be injustice to local citizens and their unique culture….Like Ruth and Rahab, many are to be embraced,” Kullberg has written. “We also find in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, men who were called to build walls in order to protect, to cultivate the good and to grow a healthy culture.”

Evangelicals like those in Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration are in a shrinking minority, however; 62% of white evangelical Protestants are now in support of undocumented immigrants remaining in the country legally. Forty percent supports a path to citizenship for those immigrants. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute of Religion and Democracy, remarked about evangelicals and immigration, “There are people on both sides. But the people who are speaking up are on the pro-side and those that are skeptical are not represented much at all.”

Source: The State, “Upstate pastors in D.C. to pussh for immigration reform,” Byron Barnett,
October 28, 2013

Source: Time swampland, “Evangelicals Battle Over ‘Biblical’ Immigration,” Maya Rhodan,
October 22, 2013