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Oklahoma congressman disagrees with evangelical Christian group's immigration reform plan

Oklahoma's U.S. Rep. James Lankford, former director of a Southern Baptist youth camp, says that he understands the moral dimension of immigration reform, but he doesn't agree that a path to citizenship has to be part of the solution.
by Chris Casteel Modified: July 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: July 29, 2013

Moral dimension

Moore said he believes his arm of the Southern Baptist Convention speaks for the grassroots of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. But Lankford said no single organization speaks for the membership since Southern Baptist churches and pastors have great autonomy.

Still, Lankford and Moore use similar language in framing the moral dimension of the issue.

“It's a personal issue,” Moore said. “It's one of the reasons that many of the people concerned about this have been on a personal journey toward a change of mind here because they've seen not just abstract issues but real persons, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who are being harmed and hurt by a system that is broken.”

Said Lankford: “I firmly believe that every person is created in the image of God, every person has value on the planet, every individual must be respected and honored and they're a valuable person.

“But in Christian life ... reconciliation is a very big deal. And a lot of the push from Southern Baptists and their leadership is: How do these individuals be reconciled, be made right with the law?”

No urgency in House

House Republican leaders have expressed no urgency to pass an immigration bill. And Lankford said the House will not follow the Senate's approach and consider a comprehensive bill that includes elements like border security, guest worker programs and a path to citizenship.

“We feel like it needs to be worked through a piece at a time,” Lankford said.

Moore said he understands the concerns lawmakers have, including the fear that Congress will be considering immigration reform again in the not-so-distant future if it's not done correctly.

“They're concerned that we don't encourage more illegal immigration,” Moore said. “I think that's a valid concern. I think it's fixable. I think we can find a way to address that.

“And they're concerned with how do we make sure we have accountability for people so that they're not simply brought into citizenship without having to earn it. I think it's also a valid concern and has been answered in many of the proposals that have come forward.”

Lankford, who is the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, said he has been focusing on “identifying broken things and fixing them ... but not try to create new problems in the process.”

“That is our constitutional mandate. Article 1, Section 8 requires that Congress has a system of naturalization. We don't have a good system of that right now. We've got to be able to resolve that.”

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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