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Evangelicals unveil immigration reform plan

Published: Wednesday, June 13 2012 1:50 p.m. MDT

A coalition of evangelical activists converged on Washington to unveil their plan for immigration reform.

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A coalition of evangelical activists converged on Washington Tuesday to unveil their plan for immigration reform and to urge Congress, during an election year, to address the issue.

The so-called “Evangelical Immigration Table,” comprised of prominent conservative and liberal evangelicals from across the country, delivered an "Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform" to leadership from the Obama Administration, Senate and House.

Citing a biblical call to protect the stranger living in a foreign land, the statement signed by 140 evangelical leaders urges respect for immigrants’ humanity while obeying the rule of law and providing for national security, the Religion News Service reported.

But, the initiative lacks a plan to push the proposal through Congress and the White House, especially during an election year.

“Much, much work remains to be done on the specifics,” said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family. “As difficult as it was getting all these signers together, the next step, getting politicians together, is a much greater task.”

Tuesday's announcement was one in a series of recent events between an unlikely alliance of Obama and evangelicals, according to The New York Times.

"Normally on the opposite side of political issues backed by the Obama White House, these leaders are aligning with the president to support an overhaul that would include some path to legalization for illegal immigrants already here. They are preaching from pulpits, conducting conference calls with pastors and testifying in Washington — as they did last Wednesday."

The Times reported that evangelical support for immigration reform can be credited to the work of "politically active Hispanic evangelical pastors, who have forged friendships with non-Hispanic pastors in recent years while working in coalitions to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. The Hispanics made a concerted effort to convince their brethren that immigration reform should be a moral and practical priority."

Christianity Today detailed the six points in the evangelicals' statement, explaining they jibe with polling research on what resonates with voters in the immigration debate.

"There is a tested message on immigration that works with the vast majority of Americans, including a strong majority of Hispanics. That message is tough, fair, and practical," said a memo from Third Way, a think tank that Christianity Today said focuses on bipartisan solutions.

But even with a well-crafted message and the support of the evangelical voting bloc, getting Congress to address immigration during an election year is a long shot, when the economy still reigns as the top issue and lawmakers from both sides of the isle are reluctant to take on something as volatile as immigration.

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