National immigration debate descends on South Carolina

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South Carolina is becoming a hotbed of immigration advocacy as ad campaigns for and against Senate immigration reform efforts fill the Palmetto State’s airwaves.

Wednesday the Evangelical Immigration Table, a pro-immigration reform group lead by evangelical Christians, announced an immigration ad buy on 15 Christian radio stations across the state.

“Christ calls evangelicals to compassion and justice so please join a growing movement of Christians asking our political leaders for immigration solutions rooted in Biblical values, which reflect each person’s god given dignity, respect the rule of law, protect family unity, guarantee secure borders, ensure fairness to taxpayers and establish a path toward citizenship,” Rev. Jim Goodroe, director of missions for the Spartanburg County Baptist Network, says in the ad.

Goodroe goes on in the ad to encourage Christians in the state to speak out for just immigration laws and to pray for their elected leaders.

The evangelical immigration ad campaign comes as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the four GOP leaders in the “Gang of Eight,” is under attack in his state by another television ad campaign sponsored by the limited immigration group NumbersUSA that launched in late Feb.

“Who elected Lindsey Graham to demand millions more immigrant workers when so many South Carolinians are jobless?” the NumbersUSA ad asks, urging the viewer to call and “Ask Sen. Graham who he represents.”

Republicans for Immigration Reform have also launched a campaign in support of Graham’s efforts and “modernizing immigration” laws in South Carolina.

Graham faces re-election in 2014.

Another South Carolina Republican, Rep. Trey Gowdy is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

“Just as those who oppose immigration reform have been targeting South Carolina, for the same reasons we are putting these ads in South Carolina because Lindsey Graham and Trey Gowdy and the other representatives from South Carolina need to hear from those who support them,” Richard Land, the president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, explained to reporters on a Wednesday conference call when asked why the ads are targeting South Carolina.

Land added that the organization appreciates Grahams effort and that the campaign aims to show South Carolinians “how proud they should be of their senator taking such a strong stand on such an important issue.”

Goodroe, also on the conference call, spoke highly of Gowdy as well, calling him a “deeply principled man committed to Biblical principles,” however Land noted that, while he has not spoken to Gowdy, many in the House will not take the first step due to fear of political vulnerability.

“If immigration reform is going to take place this year, and I believe it should, the Senate is going to have to take the leadership and come forth with a bill first,” Land said. “Rep. Gowdy is a congressman who seeks to earnestly represent the members of his district and it is up to us to convince him that the members of his district support comprehensive immigration reform. We believe they do.”

The Evangelical Immigration Table has no kept their efforts solely within the confines of South Carolina. The organization’s faith leaders have been working with those in Washington to assist in bringing about immigration reform and are currently organizing in other states.

The group also has a campaign to encourage other evangelical Christians to get on board with their goals.

During Wednesday’s conference call Noel Castellanos the head of the Christian Community Development Association said that “tens of thousands of Christians” have joined on to the organizations “I was a stranger” prayer challenge which includes spending forty days reading scripture relevant God’ to immigrants. So far, he noted congregations in 49 states have joined on. He noted that he hoped congregations in Hawaii would join on soon.

“So churches are not only being mobilized to speak out for their immigrant neighbors but they are being challenged first by scripture,” Castellanos said.

“We believe that there is a comprehensive immigration reform package that can be passed and can be signed by the president into law, hopefully by labor day at the latest, of this year,” Land added.

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