(Photo: The Christian Post)
WASHINGTON – A leader in the largest Protestant denomination in the United States has stated at a conservative event Tuesday that drew over 600 leaders to lobby for immigration reform that their effort is "really close" to coming to fruition.
Dr. Barrett Duke, vice president for Public Policy and Research at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told The Christian Post at the event titled "Americans for Reform: Immigration Reform for our Economy, Faith and Security", which was held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hall of Flags room, that reform was near. "They passed five bills out of committee already. They still need floor votes on those. Leadership, House leadership, has already said they want to get this done; they're working on a couple more bills in the House," said Duke.
"So they've done most of the really heavy lifting on this already. It wouldn't take much more than simply scheduling a floor vote."
Duke, who was part of a panel at the event, also said that the SBC had come to increasingly support immigration reform.
"We have had a denominational conversation where we have consulted the Scriptures, we've looked at our own congregations and we've recognized that we know a lot of these folks that we're talking about," said Duke.
"The result is that through our own personal spiritual reflection and our relationship building, we've developed a more balanced understanding of the need for immigration reform. So it's just a process that has grown over the years."
"Americans for Reform" was organized by the groups Partnership for a New American Economy; Bibles, Badges, Business; and Fwd.us. Sponsors included the American Farm Bureau Federation, TechNet, Wal-Mart, and the Western Growers Association.
Bruce Josten, executive vice president for Government Affairs at the U.S. Chamber, said in a statement that immigration reform is a "top priority" for the businesses the Chamber represents.
"Immigration reform remains a top priority for the business community, and the Chamber and our partners will continue to do everything we can to make the case for reform this year," said Josten.
"Acting on immigration during the 113th Congress would be an enormous achievement for our country and our economy, and would show the public and the world that the United States can still get things done."
Duke was part of a panel that gathered Tuesday morning before an audience large enough that event organizers had an overflow room next to the Hall of Flags which featured the speakers on a screen.
In addition to Duke, the first panel of the morning had Alberto R. Cardenas, chair of the American Conservative Union; Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association; Sheriff Margaret Mims of Fresno County, Calif.; and Tom Nassif, president and CEO of the Western Growers Association.
When asked by the moderator what led him to support immigration reform, Nassif stated that it had to do with the needs for labor in American agriculture.
"We know that people generally don't raise their children to be farmworkers. We know that not even farmworkers raise their children to be farmworkers," said Nassif.
"We're here to share that message and to show the legislators on the federal level how much it will do for this economy."
For its part, Duke told CP that SBC leadership is "calling on the congregations to read scripture, to understand what the Bible says about" immigration and treatment of immigrants.
"It is not pressuring our congregations one way or another, it's simply calling on them to search their own hearts, their own conscience," said Duke.