There is no issue facing our nation today that demands righteousness and justice more than the total reform of our immigration system. Hispanic Christians are dedicated to both and I am willing to predict that the immigration debate will be revived on their behalf.
Despite the fact that most of the mainstream media is reporting that immigration reform is dead in this Congress, as vice president of governmental affairs for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, I know that immigration reform is both alive and well. I am certain that the prospects for a conservative, thoughtful, and most importantly moral, step-by-step series of bills to emerge on the House floor before the end of October – and certainly before the November Thanksgiving recess – are quite likely.
These bills will be both righteous and just. They will be rigorous, detail oriented, and most importantly effective.
When the House is finished working through their series of bills they will have, in effect, shut the flow of new future illegal immigration to a trickle. These bills will tackle the issues of border security and interior enforcement of immigration laws - including rules that will encourage states to be, in effect, "force multipliers" by allowing states and localities to enact laws that mirror but do not exceed the new federal laws.
The bills will include mandatory electronic worksite enforcement, E-Verify, a free-market based guest worker program, a free-market based agricultural worker bill, a strong high-skilled Visa program, a bill that addresses an earned pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers," and finally a very conservative bill allowing for earned legalization - but no "special pathway to citizenship" for the 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants who qualify.
I applaud the growing caucus of courageous and thoughtful members of the House GOP that have worked long and hard to "get this right." In doing so, these champions have proven themselves to be principled and conservative leaders. They love and care about this country, and they understand that we are a nation built on immigration ... legal immigration.
The prospects for this series of bills are really quite strong. The advocate community of principled leaders in the faith, law enforcement and business communities have proven their points, and have cleared the political pathway forward for these bills to happen. The traditional opponents of "amnesty" can also take heart in the fact that they have influenced this debate, and not only will enforcement come first in the House process, the end result will in no way resemble amnesty.
This process will ensure that we will end the scourge of illegal immigration for the foreseeable future, and that is a very good thing. It will also ensure that we will remain a nation of immigrants, but America will have taken complete control over the process. We will have future immigration, but the numbers of new immigrants will be tied to our economy. We will have no more, and no less immigration than what our nation needs. Again, that is a very good thing. It is an extremely important development for the sake of our economic future as the most prosperous nation in the history of the world.
The ultimate victory, however, will be for justice, and the moral conscience of our nation. We will have struggled through the reality of having 11 million undocumented immigrants, and perhaps another 20 million of their documented family members, living desperate lives in the shadows of our society, and in the shadows of the American Dream. We will have emerged through this very difficult and complex national debate as a stronger nation, having reconciled our allegiance to being a nation of laws with the urgent moral need to provide a mechanism that allows this shadow society an earned opportunity for reconciliation, and for a fresh and real chance to seek their own American Dream. Ultimately, we will have proven to the world that America remains, indeed, that shining city standing prominently on a hill.
The politics here can be historic. Hispanic Christians are possibly the group most attuned to a clarion call among Christians not only in our nation's politics, but in our society at large. This call demands that we, as a society, seek to reconcile the spiritual call for righteousness, with the intellectual desire in all men to seek a greater and more inclusive call for justice. Like the cross, there is the vertical societal dimension that looks to God and is concerned with personal righteousness, and there is the horizontal dimension that looks to our society at large, and is concerned with justice.
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) looks to the nexus of this societal cross, and seeks a movement. We seek a national societal movement that reconciles the nexus of this cross, as we seek to reconcile Billy Graham's message of righteousness, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march demanding justice for all.
We call this reconciliation the agenda of the Lamb. The agenda of the Lamb calls our society to rise beyond the earthly politics of the elephant and the donkey, and strive for the spiritual promised land of a truly just and integrated society. Immigration reform is the very personification of the Lamb's agenda.
This call for righteousness and justice moves the NHCLC to act, and to act now. We seek a venue where we can discuss the justice issues confronting our society, and strive for answers. We feel that the framework for the reconciliation that we seek will be built at our First Annual NHCLC Justice Summit.
The NHCLC's Justice Summit 2013, "Reconciling Conviction with Compassion," will be held at the Hilton Crystal City in Washington, D.C., on November 18th and 19th. This NHCLC Justice Summit is an opportunity to amplify our influence, and to dialogue and strategize about key justice issues.
The first day of our summit will be focused on keynote speeches and seminars on the urgent moral issues confronting America. Specifically, we will focus on the desperate moral call for immigration reform, where we have 11 million undocumented people, and another 20 million of their legal family members, living desperate lives in the shadows of society, and in the shadows of the American Dream. We will discuss the biblical sanctity of human life. We will speak on the true constitutional and biblical need in our nation for religious freedom, and the ramifications of legislation such as the Affordable Care Act on this religious freedom. We will delve into the role of the church in the fights against poverty and human trafficking. Importantly, we will discuss at length the emerging Jewish-Latino partnership in the struggle for justice, as the NHCLC is working closely with our friends in Israel and around the world to promote justice for the sanctity and protection of the Jewish state.
On the second day of our conference, we will have briefings and meetings with members of Congress on Capitol Hill, where we will advocate for just laws on the issues of immigration reform, the sanctity of human life, traditional family values, religious freedom, poverty, and the state of Israel.
We will hear from a prestigious roster of speakers that will expound on important issues of justice, including Dr. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the NHCLC; Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. of Hope Christian Church; Dr. Rev. Bernice King; Dr. Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel; Dr. Yuri Mantilla, associate professor of law and director of Global Initiatives, Liberty University; Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's ERLC; and myself, Robert Gittelson, NHCLC VP for Governmental Affairs, as well as several invited members of Congress. Music will be performed by Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzales of the group Salvador.
Importantly, our second night's keynote speaker will be Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who will speak on "Economic Freedom as the Foundation for Liberty and Human Rights."
I want to take special notice of a panel discussion on immigration reform that we will be holding on Tuesday. I will be moderating a panel of conservative leaders as we discuss the issue of immigration reform, and the Lamb's agenda. I will be joined in this panel by Staver, Moore, Dr. Carlos Campo of the NHCLC's Executive Board, and Alfonso Aguilar of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.
We invite the public to join us at this important, multi-cultural summit, and to participate in what we know will be a positive step toward the much needed awakening in America that calls our society to seek conviction with compassion, and to reconcile righteousness with justice.
Please visit our website at www.nhclc.org, to learn more about this inaugural Justice Summit. We pray that concerned Americans from all corners of society will be part of this historic opportunity, and will strive to seek answers consistent with the agenda of the Lamb.
Robert Gittelson is co-founder of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and NHCLC Sr. Advisor on Immigration.