The Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform coalition in general, and specifically the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, wish to state at this time that we take issue with the recent negative direction that the Republican Party has moved the discourse or rhetoric surrounding the issue of illegal immigration in this country. Make no mistake; we are firm in our belief that illegal immigration is very problematic for our country, and must be sternly addressed. However, we must address this issue in strict compliance with our Judeo-Christian values. We must reconcile the call for compassion, (Leviticus 19), with the call for the rule of law, (Romans 13).
In particular, we are extremely concerned with the backlash against Governor Rick Perry’s stand on in-state tuition for undocumented children inTexas . We feel that his statement concerning “having a heart” on this issue is both biblically and morally correct. While we do not endorse candidates, we do recognize that Mr. Perry’s stand is in strict compliance with the 10th amendment’s call for states to exercise their own discretion on the issue of in-state tuition. Furthermore, we feel that his call for compassion for these children – who are completely innocent of any wrongdoing - is moral and just. His concern that without an opportunity to advance their education, these children would become a burden or drain on society has merit. Certainly the argument that they will become a greater source of tax revenue for Texas with an education is indisputable.
We would suggest a further argument; that their parents, while undocumented, have certainly contributed tax revenue to the state of Texas through income tax, sales tax, and in many cases property tax. Any out-of-state applicant’s parents cannot make that claim – they have not contributed, nor will they contribute anything toward the Texas revenue stream. Certainly that is another argument in favor of in-state tuition for the children of any Texan.
We would further suggest that while his comments as a front-runner in the Republican primary race make him a target for criticism from the other candidates, the Republican Party should recognize that eventually whoever they elect must compete in a general election. Therefore, any comments that they make at this time that will be perceived as negative against immigrants, and Hispanics in particular, will be extremely toxic toward their chances in several key state elections. After all, getting nominated is meaningless – being elected President is everything, and without Hispanic support, the Republican Party is doomed to becoming a perennial second tier party in any national election. If for no other reason, the Republican Party must be very careful and measured in their language and positioning on the issue of dealing with the illegal immigration crisis in this country.
As with many of today’s divisive issues, Bible-believing Americans carry a moral and biblical responsibility to analyze and offer facilitative platforms which activate the ministry of reconciliation. Evangelicals and Christians committed to truth and the spreading of the Gospel must incorporate prophetic witness that heals communities, ushers in peace and exalts righteousness and justice. For that matter, while uberconservative solutions addressing immigration focus exclusively on border protection and deportation by attrition while liberal solutions advocate for amnesty; Christians must offer a better way, a narrow way, a biblical solution to the immigration debate, a just integration solution.
A Just Integration Solution reconciles Romans 13, adherence to the rule of law with Leviticus 19, treating the stranger amongst us as one of our own. As Christians, we stand committed to the message of the Cross. However, that cross is both vertical and horizontal, salvation and transformation, ethos and pathos, Kingdom and society, faith and public policy, Covenant and community, righteousness and justice, Romans 13 and Leviticus 19.
But here lies the challenge; can we reconcile Leviticus 19 and Romans 13? Can we repudiate xenophobic and nativist rhetoric, push back on the extremes from both the left and the right and converge around the nexus of the Center Cross where righteousness meets justice, border security meets compassion and common sense meets common ground?
Finally, the Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform coalition, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, hereby calls on all candidates for elected office, and particularly for President of the United States, to sign a pledge promising that they will not engage in rhetoric that exacerbates the current debate regarding immigration. We therefore call for all candidates to sign a pro legal immigration, pro Hispanic American pledge.
Robert Gittelson, Co-Founder, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform