Evangelical Leaders Unite on Just Assimilation Immigration Policy

May 11, 2010

Washington, DC – The crisis the country is witnessing in Arizona over immigration is the result of a failed immigration policy at the federal level. Arizona lawmakers felt compelled to act because the federal government would not. We do not agree that the Arizona law was the wisest course of action because immigration is a federal and not a state responsibility. It is the federal government’s failure that has led to the current crisis. The Arizona law is a symptom and a cry for help.

The immigration debate does not belong to a political party. We believe that it is a moral issue. While there are many aspects of immigration and no one single solution to the problem, we unite to affirm common ground while recognizing there must be candid and open debate on the details. And while we acknowledge that there will be significant details on which not everyone will agree, we should avoid the temptation of using the passions surrounding the immigration issue to engage in destructive rhetoric for the purposes of political posturing.

Our national security and domestic tranquility depends on secure borders. We must first secure our borders before we can implement a broader just assimilation immigration policy. Secure borders are not closed borders. Violent criminals and drug traffickers take advantage of open borders. Such criminals are a threat to everyone in every community, including Latinos who are disproportionately victimized by them.

After securing our borders, we should allow the millions of undocumented and otherwise law-abiding persons living in our midst to come out of the shadows. The pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency should involve a program of legalization for undocumented persons in the United States, subject to appropriate penalties, waiting periods, background checks, evidence of moral character, a commitment to full participation in American society through an understanding of the English language, the rights and duties of citizens and the structure of America’s government, and the embrace of American values.

We must return to a rational immigration policy that acknowledges that we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. It is our obligation to provide a just solution to those people who are currently undocumented under the present policy. That solution is neither amnesty nor mass deportation. A just, rational policy would put otherwise law-abiding undocumented persons on one of three paths: one path leads to pursuing earned legal citizenship or legal residency, one leads to acquiring legal guest-worker status, and one leads back across the border including a swift process for the deportation of undocumented felons.

America has an obligation to preserve within her borders the culture that has made her successful. Assimilation is both key to protecting that culture and to the immigrant’s chances of success. History has proven that Latinos are quite capable of rapid assimilation. As a group, they have strong moral convictions, a strong sense of family, and a strong work ethic.

A just assimilation immigration policy respects the traditions held by people of many backgrounds that make up America while recognizing the importance of a shared language, history and cultural values. Those who choose legal citizenship should have the opportunity to fully participate in the American dream by removing any barrier to achieving those dreams. America is not a nation divided. There should be no Black America, White America, Latino America, or Asian America. There is one America made up of many races and ethnicities with a common history, culture, and values. Although Americans may speak many different languages, they share English as their common language. The immigration process should provide a just assimilation by teaching English, the history and founding documents of America, and the common values of liberty and justice which are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Naturalized citizens renounce all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, and declare allegiance to the United States. They pledge to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and they pledge to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Let us be clear – an earned pathway to citizenship is not amnesty. We reject amnesty. And we ask those who label an earned pathway to citizenship as amnesty to stop politicizing this debate needlessly and to honestly acknowledge the difference.

For those who do not wish to become citizens, we should make available a temporary residency or worker visa. In order to survive, some people enter this country illegally because they cannot obtain a temporary worker visa. Once here, they are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they leave they may not be able to return. If they stay, they are forced to live in the shadows. A temporary worker visa recognizes the need of domestic companies and the free market to employ people from field workers to engineers. For those immigrants not wishing to become citizens, there should be similar penalties, waiting periods, and background checks prior to the provision of guest worker visas. We must enforce our immigration laws against employers that illegally hire and exploit undocumented workers.

The time to forge a rational consensus is now. America is a country of immigrants, a melting pot of individuals from various ethnicities and cultures. It is based on the rich heritage of immigration on which this country was established, and, in accordance with a just immigration policy, this country will continue to thrive. America deserves a just immigration policy; one that begins with securing, not closing, our borders, one that provides a temporary guest-worker program, and one that offers a pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency.

We are compelled by our common faith and heritage to acknowledge that the history of immigration is filled with stories of triumph and tragedy. While Latinos are often the subject of today’s immigration debate, nearly every American today can trace their ancestry to one or many foreign lands. America’s astounding success can be largely attributed to the fact that we are a nation of immigrants and we have proven to the world that people from diverse backgrounds can come to America, live in peace with their neighbors, pursue their dreams, and succeed. The overwhelming attraction of America is her freedom. As the world’s standard-bearer for freedom, America’s light shines as hope for the world. We must never quench the torch of liberty. We must always stand for the freedom that makes our shores the object of desire for people without hope. America must always stand for liberty. It is the privilege of a freedom-loving people.

The following evangelical leaders affirm this statement on Immigration: Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the largest Hispanic Christian organization in the country representing over 16 million people in 31,000 churches; Dr. Richard Land, President of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, comprised of more than 16 million people in 42,000 churches; Bishop George McKinney, Ph.D., D.D., the founder and pastor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and member of the General Board of COGIC, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the country and the second largest African-American denomination with more than 5 million people; Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty CounselHon. Kenneth Blackwell, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on Human Rights; Lou Engle, Co-founder, TheCall to Conscience, and more.

Mathew Staver
Founder and Chairman
Liberty Counsel

Bishop George McKinney, Ph.D., D.D.
Founder and Pastor
St. Stephen’s Cathedral COGIC

General Board
Church of God in Christ

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Hon. Kenneth Blackwell
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on Human Rights

Dr. Richard Land
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee
Southern Baptist Convention

Lou Engle
The Call to Conscience