Immigration Bill Elicits New Criticism from G.O.P., Methodists

The immigration bill waiting to be reconsidered by the Senate later this week has drawn criticisms from both the Republican Party and the Methodist Church this week as its fate hangs in limbo.

House Republicans opposed to the bill introduced a legislation Tuesday that would bar illegal immigrants from gaining legal status in the United States, increase border security, and make English the nation's official language among other points, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The House bill contrasts with President Bush's Senate bill, which would create a way for the some 12 million illegal immigrants in the nation to gain citizenship.

Although the latest measure has virtually no chance to pass in the Democratic-controlled Congress, it illustrates the deep divide within the Republican Party on the immigration issue.

The bill's co-authors, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said the legislation is meant to challenge the immigration bill the Senate will reconsider this week, according to L.A. Times.

Meanwhile, seven United Methodist agencies and organizations this week expressed their opposition to the comprehensive immigration reform bill before the Senate, explaining that the bill "fails to achieve" any of the goals advocated by the church.

Specifically, the goals include reunification of families, a fair earned pathway to citizenship, and humanitarian border policies that maintains civil liberties.

"The Senate bill contains harsh enforcement provisions that erode civil-liberty protections and do not provide for real security," criticized signers of the letter addressed to the Senate.

"Further militarization of the border and denial of due process to immigrants will not stop illegal immigration or secure our borders," it continued. "National security will be achieved only as genuine reform is enacted that includes legal avenues for citizenship for all undocumented migrants."

Among the signers of the letter are chief executives or other officers of the Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society, the General Board of Global Ministries, and the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry.

Other Christian bodies which have also become involved in the debate include the the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, evangelical agency World Relief, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Catholic Church – especially in the Los Angeles area.

On the Democratic side, a Democracy Corps poll by two former advisors to former President Bill Clinton showed democratic voters split on support of the bill. An equal 47 percent were for and against the bipartisan Senate immigration bill, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wants the Senate to vote on the immigration bill before Congress breaks for Fourth of July recess. Yet even if the bill passes the Senate, its fate in the House remains uncertain.