Church Leaders Should Focus on Affirming Rule of Law in Immigration Debate, Suggests IRD President

Illegal immigrants from Guatemala, who were deported from the U.S., wait while collecting their belongings from immigration officers processing their re-entry at La Aurora airport in Guatemala City, August 14, 2014. A flight carrying 135 illegal Guatemalan migrants which departed from Brownfield, Texas, U.S., arrived at La Aurora airport on Tuesday, according to immigration authorities. |

Institute on Religion and Democracy President Mark Tooley argued that Christian leaders should be affirming the rule of law in the immigration debate, as President Barack Obama gets ready to enact executive action on Thursday that will bypass congress.

"Shouldn't Christian, especially church voices, argue for lawful change and, where possible, some level of sustainable national consensus rather than political brinkmanship?" Tooley asked in a statement on Wednesday.

"Church elites and activists focused on immigration might be more helpful if they focused on creating consensus and trust, starting with their own constituencies. Such a consensus requires prioritizing security and rule of law, without which any eventual lawful legalization process becomes politically impossible."

While other Christian initiatives, such as the network behind the Evangelical Immigration Table, have called on Congress to push sweeping immigration reform that addresses the concerns of the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., Tooley said that the campaign to back mass legalization has been unsuccessful.

Obama's plan to pass executive action on immigration stems from Congress' failure to agree on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, something which the president has prioritized in the past couple of years.

Republicans, who will control both the House and Senate next year, have warned against such a plan, however, and said that executive action would only divide the American people further.

Offering his views on how Christians should respond to the debate, Tooley suggested that activists who back legalization as a biblical issue "will be tempted to support executive amnesty."

He said, however, that even if such mass legalization is a just cause, Christian teaching warns of unintended consequences.

"What if executive amnesty poisons American political life and precludes future lawful legislation on immigration? What if subsequent congressional action defunds or effectively neutralizes executive amnesty?" the IRD president asked.

"What if the courts after prolonged litigation ultimately rule against executive amnesty? What if illegal immigrants, rather than gaining security from executive amnesty, are instead left in further limbo and become hapless pawns in national political and ultimately judicial conflict?"

Tooley concluded by suggesting that churches "would do well to avoid legislative specifics and instead offer broad principles that affirm rule of law, social order, security, human dignity, and economic opportunity for all Americans."

Following the midterm elections, Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, told The Christian Post that Republicans "have a golden opportunity to present a clear vision on immigrants and immigration in America."

"They should capitalize on the moment and propose legislation that would modernize an antiquated immigration system and offer a workable plan that respects both immigrants and the rule of law that keeps families together, and that grows our economy," Carey added.

Immigration advocacy groups are meanwhile preparing to deal with a host of clients asking for assistance in anticipation of Obama's announcement, Reuters reported.

"If the past is any indication, it's going to be a significant increase in people asking for legal assistance," said Karla McKanders, who runs the immigration law clinic at the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville.

She added that immigration lawyers are still swamped from Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which halted deportation for illegal immigrants who came to the country as young children.

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