Evangelicals Call for Fair Immigration Reform Plan, While Obama and Top GOP Leaders Clash Over Executive Action

U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, November 5, 2014. The president addressed reporters one day after after Republicans seized control of the U.S. Senate and captured their biggest majority in the House of Representatives in more than 60 years. |

A number of Evangelical groups who have called for immigration reform have urged President Barack Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress to work together on a plan that is fair to both immigrants and the rule of law. Obama and a number of top GOP leaders have clashed over the president's proposed executive action on immigration before the end of the year, however.

"With victories around the country this election and 2016 around the corner, Republicans now have a golden opportunity to present a clear vision on immigrants and immigration in America," said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, in a statement to The Christian Post on Thursday.

"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.

The Republican Party won a majority in the U.S. Senate following Tuesday's mid-term elections, handing it control of both chambers of Congress.

Republicans and Obama will have to find a way to work together on a number of issues during the president's remaining two years in power, but House Speaker John Boehner has warned that unilateral action on immigration would "poison the well" for any such cooperation.

"When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself," Boehner said Thursday, speaking out against executive action on immigration. "And he's going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path."

Obama, who has long called for comprehensive immigration reform, has said that he's willing to take executive action before the end of the year if lawmakers refuse to act in the next six weeks.

"You send me a bill that I can sign, and those executive actions go away," Obama said on Wednesday.

"That's a commitment I made not just to the American people — and to businesses and the evangelical community and the law enforcement folks and everybody who's looked at this issue and thinks that we need immigration reform — that's a commitment that I also made to John Boehner, that I would act in the absence of action by Congress," Obama asserted.

Other Republican leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is to be the next majority leader, said that executive action on immigration would be a "mistake," however.

McConnell spoke with Obama on Wednesday about areas where Republicans and Democrats can work together, but according to The Associated Press, McConnell said that Obama enforcing an immigration plan would only antagonize Republicans.

In a separate statement, Samuel Rodriguez of the The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, suggested that the mid-term elections served as a "repudiation to the idea of perpetual gridlock and the status quo."

"Accordingly, we call upon the newly elected Republican-led Congress to resurrect Abraham Lincoln's justice platform and engage Ronald Reagan's optimism in passing legislation that elevates life, strengthens families, protects religious liberty, and integrates millions of undocumented individuals created in God's image into the fullness of the American experience by passing immigration reform," Rodriguez said.

"Moreover, Hispanics voted and will continue to play an even more significant role in elections to come. The good news extends from the fact that America's Hispanic electorate continues to emerge as the quintessential independent voting constituency free from political manipulation but fully engaged in prophetic activism."

Earlier this year, Sojourners President Jim Wallis told The Christian Post that acting on immigration reform represents both a moral and a biblical choice. Wallis had urged Boehner to allow an immigration bill to go up for a vote before August, noting the reality that otherwise it would be unlikely to see such reform in 2014.

"Fixing this broken system right now is the moral test for the common good of this Congress. One man stands in the way of that. One man can fix this system, by just allowing a vote. That's Speaker John Boehner," Wallis said in May.

"The faith community is going to be watching John Boehner very carefully, on whether he will make a moral decision here. The Catholic Church is completely clear about this. He is a Catholic, and his bishops have been clear, the pope has been clear — it's time for John Boehner to make the right moral choice. It's time for John Boehner to listen to and obey his own Catholic Church."

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