Colbert Put Moral Issue Back into Immigration Equation, Says Evangelical Leader

While many have criticized Stephen Colbert for his recent testimony to a Congressional subcommittee on immigration, an evangelical leader with 13 years experience on the issue has commended the comedian for reminding the public that the nation's immigration problem is a moral issue.

Galen Carey, director of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, further noted how Colbert became "uncharacteristically serious" while citing the words of Jesus – "whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40) – during his testimony last week.

The Comedy Central star, who is a practicing Catholic, said he knows there are many "least brothers" in the current poor economy. But he highlighted that "migrant workers suffer, and have no rights."

"These are not idle comments," remarked Carey in a column posted Wednesday on CNN. "Christians take Jesus' words as a call to show justice and mercy to those at the very bottom of the social hierarchy.

"If a slightly irreverent comedian can help to prick the nation's conscience and move us to finally rectify this long-standing injustice, then we welcome his intervention," added the evangelical leader, who worked for 26 years for World Relief, the NAE's humanitarian arm.

Since last spring, the NAE has been more forcefully advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. They support reform that would both strengthen the border as well as treat illegal immigrants more humanly. In the group's Resolution Immigration 2009, the NAE urged the U.S. government to issue more work visas that would benefit employers who rely on immigrant workers as well as the immigrants who do not have documentation.

"Our current immigration system is broken," said NAE president Leith Anderson last October during the release of the resolution.

"Those who want to play by the rules – both employers and employees – often have no realistic options," he contended.

As part of its advocacy, the NAE and other groups have joined in sponsoring a three-part panel discussion series on immigration reform.

The first panel discussion took place last week in a Senate building. J. Kevin Appleby, director of the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, suggested that U.S. and foreign governments are not urgent about fixing the system despite how broken it may be because of the benefits they both gain.

"It's a nod-nod, wink-wink system," claimed Appleby. "Both sending and receiving countries are benefiting at the expense of the human dignity of the immigrant."

But the immigration problem is not just about economics, social issues or rule of law, the migration expert contended.

"Ultimately it is about people. It is about human beings and keeping families together," he stated.

Similarly, in his column Wednesday, Carey voiced impatience at the U.S. government's slowness in tackling the immigration problem, even though many leaders in both parties agree on the need for reform.

Carey hopes that Congress will listen to some of the truth tucked into Colbert's humorous "expert" testimony and take necessary action.

"Members of Congress should smile, swallow their medicine and do what they know is right," he concluded.

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