Pro-immigration reform group claims ‘sea change’ in favor of legalization among evangelical voters

Font Size:

Representatives from the Evangelical Immigration Table, an immigration advocacy coalition, are claiming there has been a “sea change” in favor of immigration reform within the evangelical community.

“I think this issue is unlike issues I’ve sometimes seen before,” Jim Wallis, the president of Christian social justice group Sojourners, said during a Monday conference call with reporters. Sojourners is part of the Evangelical Immigration Table.

“There really is a sea change in the evangelical world on immigration reform,” he said, adding that he believes evangelical support is helping fuel the political movement for immigration reform.

“Constituents of those members and senators who will be voting — their constituents are changing their hearts and minds,” Wallis said.

The Evangelical Immigration Table came out Monday in support of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

In a statement released Monday in conjunction with a press call, the organization laid out its contention that a “just and fair immigration system” should include “earned” citizenship.

“This call is rooted in our biblically informed commitment to human freedom and dignity,” the group said. “American democracy is anchored by the conviction that all human beings are created in God’s image, and should be treated with dignity and respect. For those who have earned the right to live permanently in the United States, citizenship is a natural next step.”

In coming out for citizenship for illegal immigrants the organization argued that there is a consensus in their community in favor of legalization.

“It is actually very remarkable the degree to which there is a consensus among our members on this subject. It was at one time an issue that was rather hotly debated,” Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals said.

“As a Table, it’s really an unprecedented coalition that we’ve seen in the evangelical community converging on a single issue like immigration,” Jenny Yang, vice president of policy and advocacy with the evangelical humanitarian organization World Relief, added.

“This really is an issue about us,” she continued. “Some of the largest-growing evangelical churches and communities across the country are really coming from immigrants. So when we feel like immigrants are suffering in our community — they have been living in the shadows of our society for so long — we feel it is our obligation to speak up for better policies.”

“The numbers that President [Barack] Obama is talking about and what I’m hearing about in the Senate — both of them are talking about a 13-year path,” said Robert Gittelson, the president and co-founder of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. “And that seems rigorous, but it seems somewhat appropriate.”

Members of the Evangelical Immigration Table met with President Obama about immigration reform on March 8, recently launched a radio ad campaign on Christian stations in South Carolina in support of reform, and have been promoting their cause through churches across the country with their “I was a Stranger” campaign — a movement encouraging Christians across the country to spend 40 days reading immigrant-focused scripture.

Follow Caroline on Twitter