A coalition of evangelical groups began airing radio ads in 14 states this week to press Congress to reform the nation’s immigration laws, which it says have led to “a moral, economic and political crisis in America.”
The ad buy, which costs more than $400,000 and will run on Christian radio stations in 56 mostly Republican-controlled congressional districts, is the latest effort in the Evangelical Immigration Table’s “Pray for Reform” campaign that is pushing for a legal path to citizenship for at least some of the millions of people who have illegally entered the U.S.
The group has spent almost a $1 million for media buys nationwide for the campaign the past year.
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a coalition member, says it is imperative that Congress pass immigration reform policies that “temper justice with compassion.”
“We are people of the Bible, and we read in the Bible where Jesus talks about caring for the stranger,” Duke said.
“We see these immigrants and people basically living in the shadows in constant danger … and we’re looking for a way to enable them to come out of the shadows to get to a legal status where they can hopefully enjoy the benefits of living in this country but also contribute to more fully the life and vitality of the nation.”
Duke added that many coalition members also are motivated by the “reality that the immigration system in our country is broken and it just need to be fixed.” Those fixes should included tightening security along the U.S.-Mexican border, he said.
Mike McClenahan, pastor of Solana Beach (Calif.) Presbyterian Church, whose community includes a large Hispanic population, said immigration reform “is not hypothetical but very personal.”
“Lasting and comprehensive immigration reform grounded in biblical values will give children and adults the opportunity to move out of the fearful shadows, eventually earn citizenship and contribute to our society with their God-given potential,” he said.
The Democratic-controlled Senate in June easily passed a sweeping reform package that called for a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants while enhancing border security.
But an overhaul is a much tougher sell in the Republican-run House, where GOP leaders say they may split the Senate bill into several pieces in an attempt to pass at least some of its provisions.
The evangelical coalition hasn’t endorsed any legislation. Duke says the Senate bill did a “pretty good job” of upholding the coalition’s demands but he hopes the House will “make the bill stronger.”