Thursday, May 13, 2010

Liberal Media See Immigration as Evangelical Wedge Issue

[A] growing chorus of conservative evangelical leaders has broken with their traditional political allies on the right. They're calling the Arizona law misguided and are attempting to use its passage to push for federal immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

-- From "New force for broad immigration reform: conservative evangelicals" by Dan Gilgoff, CNN 5/10/10

The group, which includes influential political activists such as Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy wing, and Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law, will soon begin lobbying Republican leaders in Washington to support comprehensive immigration reform under President Obama.

But a big part of their job is to first persuade rank-and-file evangelicals to get on board.

Staver and Land have partnered with the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, an influential Hispanic evangelical figure, and Rick Tyler -- former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's longtime spokesman and head of Gingrich's new values-based organization -- to try to draft a consensus evangelical position on immigration reform.

"After securing our borders, we must allow the millions of undocumented and otherwise law-abiding persons living in our midst to come out of the shadows," reads a recent draft of the document, which is still being finalized. "The pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency should involve a program of legalization for undocumented persons in the United States. ..."

Many conservatives say illegal immigrants should be forced to return to their home countries and start the process of legally coming to the U.S. from scratch.

Rodriguez, who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference -- which represents about 16 million Latino evangelicals in the U.S. -- says he'll soon start presenting the document to Republican leaders like Gingrich, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio in hopes that they sign on.

"If the conservative evangelical community looks to the Republican Party and says, 'We demand integration reform, we demand a just assimilation strategy,' that may be the tipping point in getting substantial Republican support for comprehensive immigration reform," Rodriguez said.

Still, Rodriguez and the handful of conservative evangelical leaders promoting comprehensive immigration reform have yet to persuade some of the country's most powerful evangelical groups -- including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council -- to come on board.

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