Recently, I was privileged to be a keynote speaker at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Flags. The topic that rallied evangelicals, business leaders, and law enforcement officials was immigration reform. Speakers like Grover Norquist and Alberto Cardenas made the case that immigration reform makes economic and business sense. The report from the Bi-partisan Policy Center reinforced the fact that common-sense immigration reform would help both the economy and contribute to reducing the deficit. Increasingly, the spurious economic arguments that create zero-sum winners and losers are falling away. In short, the argument that economists and business leaders should call for immigration reform on economic reasons is gaining ground.
Yet, what really called my attention in those two-days of mobilization is the key support given by evangelical leaders. The Southern Baptists and the National Association of Evangelicals were all key parts of the program. Evangelical pastors from all over the country including Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, and beyond came to argue a biblical case for reform. While evangelicals did not endorse a specific policy, the principles of balancing border security, fairness to taxpayers, family unity, and an earned path to citizenship were all highlighted. Over 150 of the most prominent evangelical leaders including Jim Daly, Bill Hybels, Russell Moore, Leith Anderson, and Max Lucado have already signed on to a national letter asking for common-sense immigration reform. In fact, the Public Religion Research Institute’s (PRRI) 2013 Immigration Survey shows that the majority of white evangelicals support immigration reform. If you add Asian, African, and Latino evangelicals, the numbers favoring reform are overwhelming. The question is: Why has evangelical support for immigration reform increased in the last several years? Simply put, evangelicals have a role to play in moving immigration reform forward. Our positions are informed by Matthew 25, Hebrews 13:2, Exodus 22:21, and Leviticus 19:33-34. While no policy is specifically endorsed by Scripture, the biblical principles overwhelmingly point to practicing hospitality while not imposing undue hardships on citizens. Common-sense immigration reform can do both.
I am encouraged that as the number of Hispanics evangelicals continue to grow many more evangelicals have joined the call for common-sense immigration reform. If the PRRI’s 2013 Hispanic Values Survey is correct, 13 percent of the close to 52 million Hispanics claim an evangelical identity. That would put the number of Latino evangelicals at about 7 million –many of them living in key electoral states. It was not lost on me that the relationships Hispanic evangelicals have been cultivating are influencing the direction of evangelicalism in America. I can only imagine the same is true of business as highlighted by the growths of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce throughout the country.
Relationships matter! As we worship, pray, and read the Bible together we are challenged to examine our assumptions anew. As our children go to Sunday School and sing together in children’s choir the words of Jesus, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” take on fresh meaning. As I closed in a prayerful thought at the Chamber of Commerce, my questions to my sisters, brothers, and friends in the audience came from St. Augustine, “What is the summa bonum (highest good) when it comes to immigration reform? We can do better. As a Christian, I know we can and must do better. Inaction on a broken system is not a viable option.
Image courtesy of Korean Resource Center.