Religious Leaders Reed, Moore: GOP Stall on Immigration 'Shortsighted'

Image: Religious Leaders Reed, Moore: GOP Stall on Immigration 'Shortsighted' Russell Moore, left, and Ralph Reed

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 09:14 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Republicans who have opted to do nothing about immigration reform are employing a "shortsighted" strategy, when a comprehensive plan based on conservative values would be the "moral thing to do for the soul of our nation," religious leaders Ralph Reed and Russell Moore wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal.

"The message is clear: Reform is the right thing to do for our economy and needed for a safe and secure border," they wrote in the piece published Sunday. Reed is the founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition;  Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

But, they write, many House Republicans are concerned about the midterm elections and distrust President Barack Obama's willingness to enforce an immigration law, so they have decided to do nothing about reform.

Earlier this year, House Speaker John Boehner said it would be difficult to pass an immigration bill because fellow Republicans don't trust President Barack Obama to implement the law, a position that reduces chances for House action this year.

But the federal government's "antiquated" policies and its failure to secure the border have meant millions of people coming to the United States illegally, Reed and Moore wrote.

Part of the problem, they claim, is that immigration reforms passed in the 1960s focused on blood relationships, while allowing little priority on job skills or education, they wrote. But Canada issues about 120,000 skilled-worker visas annually, either on a permanent or temporary basis, or about twice as many as are issued in the United States.

"The immigrant community is brimming with hard-working, entrepreneurial, family-oriented men and women who yearn for freedom and aspire to be Americans in the fullest sense," said Reed and Moore. "Others violate our laws, committing crime and living off the system. As Christians and conservatives, we have had to ask ourselves how to move forward."

Immigration reform must follow conservative principles, they wrote, meaning "no blanket amnesty or guarantee of citizenship," and people in the country illegally should learn English, admit their wrongdoing, pay taxes, and submit to background checks.

Further, they said, there should be no "special pathway" for people who are in the country illegally, and the government should deport criminals.

Spouses and minor children of legal immigrants should also be allowed in, while the government should not permit "chain migration" that lets all blood relatives come in, they said, as "strong marriages and families help produce better citizens."

Other Christian, business, and law-enforcement leaders have also been calling for a conservative approach for immigration reform, Reed and Moore said. They quoted the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference as saying the current immigration system "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."

Passing immigration reform "that reflects conservative values of strong and secure borders, the rule of law, economic opportunity, and strengthening of the family" will take wisdom and courage, Reed and Moore wrote, but will be best "for the good of the nation."

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