Presidential candidates President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Our commitment, as people of strong faith, is to reconcile conviction with compassion, truth with love, and righteousness with justice. At the end of the day our number one objective is to reconcile the Rev. Billy Graham’s message with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march. In doing so, we advance not the agenda of the Donkey or the Elephant, but exclusively the agenda of the Lamb.
It’s about the right thing to do. The Lamb’s agenda activates a kingdom culture firewall of righteousness and justice. In other words, in order to defend life and protect liberty and facilitate the platform by which all Americans can pursue happiness, we must apply biblical optics and apply corrective lenses to spiritual and cultural myopia.
The Hispanic community, and particularly Hispanic faith or values voters, are standing at a historic precipice. As a community, many of these voters are deeply conflicted between what they perceive to be a choice. They feel that the former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has articulated campaign positions that align closely with their core values of life and liberty, but they are deeply concerned that Romney’s stated positions on immigration reform are contrary to their values on this very personal issue. This choice boils down to a simple and fundamental question: What do we do with 11 million human beings that are currently here and that are undocumented – especially those that have been here for a long time, and are otherwise law abiding and contributing members of society?
We firmly believe that on this issue, President Obama had great intentions. We wholeheartedly believe that he supports comprehensive immigration reform.
Nevertheless, our president had two years with a Democratic majority and he made a promise that, for other reasons and other factors – and we’ll take him at his word – his promise was not able to be fulfilled. However, Republicans on the other hand have embraced a sort of demagoguery and rhetoric that has polarized many Hispanic Americans.
President Obama continues to articulate an outline for immigration reform. However, the outline that he advocates is identical to the outline that failed to pass in both 2006 and 2007. As a leader, it is incumbent upon the president to articulate a new path – a path that can find bipartisan support. In that regard he has failed the Hispanic community.
The former governor, right on his Web site, states, “As president, Mitt Romney will implement a national immigration strategy to address our nation’s broken immigration system. He will reach across the aisle and work with Congress to forge lasting solutions.” He has also said, “We have to work on a collaborative basis, not because we’re going to compromise our principle, but because there’s common ground….But we need to have leadership — leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if — if it’s a Republican or a Democrat….” And in the presidential debate, after calling out the president on his failure to deliver immigration reform in his first term, Romney added, “I’ll get it done. I’ll get it done. First year.”
We would further note that in 2013, neither political party will have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Therefore, since both candidates have promised immigration reform in 2013, we remind all voters – and particularly Hispanic faith voters that stand so conflicted on this issue – that whichever candidate wins the election, they will be obligated to seek a compromise on immigration reform by reaching across the aisle to work hand in hand with the other party. Therefore, we should look to each candidate to see who is better equipped to work across the aisle on this issue.
Both parties have played the proverbial political football with this issue, and therefore with the Hispanic electorate. That’s why we do believe that it’s wonderful to see the church take the lead on this issue that transcends politics where they reconcile Leviticus 19 with Romans 13. The rule of law argument against comprehensive immigration reform is often framed by pointing to the Biblical passage of Romans 13, which opens with the sentence, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” However, we would suggest that to really see how the Bible looks at the issue of immigration, and how we should deal with the 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants that reside in our country, one must continue reading Romans 13, which continues, “….owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law….’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” This passage of the bible does not conflict with Leviticus 19: 33-34, it conforms with it, as Leviticus states, “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
This election finds the Hispanic community of faith voters in an affirming moment. It’s a redemptive moment, collectively, not only for the Latino community or the evangelical, but for the body of Christ. As we minister to the immigrants in our midst, we persistently confront the dysfunction of our current immigration legal system, a system that mocks the rule of law; only selectively enforces laws against both immigrant workers and employers; invites unjust working conditions, and even human trafficking; divides families through deportation and backlogs for lawful family reunification; and stifles the full flourishing of people made in God’s image. To that respect, justice will not and cannot be silent.
Justice demands that as a nation we rise above the political fray. Justice requires us to reconcile the rule of law, or Romans 13, with a compassionate process of integration for those that have come with a pure purpose of providing for their families a better tomorrow, or Leviticus 19. Justice is not amnesty. Justice secures the border, stops illegal immigration but also builds a bridge where the undocumented that can qualify through a strict regimen of metrics, can pay fines and begin a process of fully embracing the American dream.
Therefore, as people of faith, we urge our brothers and sisters to look at this election with fresh eyes, an open mind, and an open heart. We urge you to look first to your values. To those Hispanic values voters, we feel that you should not fear either Obama for failing to achieve immigration reform, or Romney for failing to articulate a compassionate approach toward solving our broken immigration system. Ultimately, both candidates will need to seek compromise as they lead on this issue. Look therefore to your hearts, and to your fundamental values. Pray on this important decision. Do not cast your vote in fear. We pray that you cast your vote in faith.
Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Robert Gittelson is president and co-Founder, of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.