Christian Right Changing Its Views on Immigration

Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013 10:13 AM

By Lisa Barron

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With both the House and the Senate actively seeking ways to overhaul the current immigration system, the religious right is for the first time weighing in on the issue, supporting reform both behind the scenes and in public, reports Politico.

"I think it is night and day, particularly among social conservatives," Ralph Reed, who heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told the news organization.

On Tuesday, Politico reported, Reed’s group outlined broad goals for reform, including keeping families together, reforming the visa system, and securing the border.
 
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The move coincided with a preliminary hearing on immigration efforts by the House Judiciary Committee and comes just eight days after a bipartisan group of senators released proposals that would legalize many of the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants. President Barack Obama has also advocated a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants.

"The issues had been so demagogued for the last five or six years, it was hopeless to get seriously into," said Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, which is now supporting immigration reform for the first time in its history. “It seems the time is better. The time has changed. …That’s why we’ve become more active."

So have groups such as Bread for the World, Esperanza, Christian Community Development Association, and the National Association of Evangelicals. According to Politico, at least a dozen Christian conservative groups have launched a 40-day campaign called "I was a stranger," asking parishioners to read a daily bible verse dealing with immigrants.

Political realities appear to be driving the change in attitudes, as church congregations across the country are filling up more and more with Hispanics. As a result, conservative religious leaders are beginning to talk and work more closely with members of the Hispanic community and conservative lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and GOP Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho.

The efforts could help Republicans win over more Hispanic voters in future elections.

"A conservative voter is going to listen to a conservative leader, especially in conservative states," Ali Noorani, head of the National Immigration Forum, told Politico.

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Noorani's group has launched a campaign dubbed “Bibles, Badges and Business” that brings together lawmakers, pastors, police and business owners.

"The political dynamic on immigration has changed. Republicans and Democrats are finally realizing that immigration reform is smart politics for both, and smart policy for the nation," Noorani said in a statement Tuesday after a meeting at the White House between President Obama, immigration advocates and business leaders.



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