WASHINGTON — Evangelical leaders, including a Southern Baptist Convention official, called Tuesday for President Barack Obama and Congress to reform the nation's immigration laws and grant legal status to millions of undocumented residents.
Pressing a cause that they've championed for years, the officials with various Christian groups said bipartisan immigration reform should be introduced within 92 days after the president's second term begins — a reference to the number of times the word for immigrant appears in the Bible.
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in a conference call with reporters that the ultimate goal of immigration reform should be legal status and citizenship for those already in the United States.
Duke said there is still “anxiety” among Southern Baptists about immigration reform but also “an openness now from more people than I've heard in awhile.”
Obama has said immigration reform would be a top priority next year and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week that comprehensive reform was overdue.
The evangelical leaders sent letters to the Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate calling for reform that: respects the God-given dignity of every person; protects the unity of the immediate family; respects the rule of law; guarantees secure national borders; ensures fairness to taxpayers; and establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.
Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, called immigration a Christian and moral issue.
“As a Christian, my faith calls me to be concerned for all my neighbors, whether or not they look like me, talk like me or even believe like me,” Anderson said.
He said he wasn't “counting votes” in Congress on the issue.
“My sense is that political momentum is moving toward immigration reform,” Anderson said.