Earlier this week, a group of some 140 evangelical leaders signed a statement calling for immigration reform and laying out some key basic principles they all manage to agree on. That evangelical leaders are making this a priority is good news, though long overdue. And that they agree on basic principles is also good, considering the signatories represent both ends of the evangelical political spectrum, represented by a couple of very different Jims: one at Sojourners and the other at Focus on the Family.
The statement calls for a bipartisan solution to the immigration issue based to these six principles:
- Respects the God-given dignity of every person
- Protects the unity of the immediate family
- Respects the rule of law
- Guarantees secure national borders
- Ensures fairness to taxpayers
- Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.
As has been noted elsewhere, the only possibly controversial point is the final one, which many conservatives have opposed in the past for fear it would incentivize entering the country illegally.
The New York Times’ coverage of the statement focuses largely on the Republican Party’s problem with Latino voters, which presumptive nominee Mitt Romney certainly hasn’t helped, but it’s worth mentioning that Barack Obama hasn’t exactly made immigration reform a priority either. Maybe a statement like this from a supposedly important voting bloc will serve to elevate the conversation around immigration reform as election day looms this November. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
I’m glad these leaders got together to sign this statement, and I was happy to add my signature. Honestly, it all seems perfectly sensible to me. But now what? Will this least-common-denominator statement of basic principles be enough to make any real difference? How likely is it that those two Jims — much less Mitt and Barack — will find common ground when it comes to concrete policies that are both compassionate and just? I admit I’m not overly optimistic on that front. Nonetheless, getting leaders from different ends of the political spectrum to agree on something — anything! — is a rare feat these days.
It’s easy to lose heart when considering the sober reality that a statement like this may not actually result in any concrete legislative action. It may, but it may not. Nonetheless, if these principles indeed have biblical support, as it seems to me they do, the statement has merit in itself, as a public declaration by evangelical leaders standing together for what’s right.
If you’d like to add your signature, or see the list of original signatories, you can do so here.
[Photo credit: Jerilyn Forsythe/Cronkite News Service via tucsonsentinel.com]