Evangelicals call for immigration reform

Stephen James Johnson

From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON – An American evangelical Christian group is urging Congress to approve reforms to immigration laws in a resolution approved Thursday.

The National Association of Evangelicals’ resolution, passed unanimously by the group’s board of directors, recommends that immigration laws provide a path for the undocumented to eventually gain legal status, place a high priority on reuniting families and reduce backlogs of petitions in those areas.

“This resolution will be an important step forward in evangelical advocacy on behalf of immigrants, many of whom are members of evangelical churches across the United States,” said Galen Carey, the association’s government affairs director.

The association’s president, Leith Anderson, said the process for legal immigration to the U.S. is antiquated, bureaucratic and needs to change.

Anderson told members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Citizenship on Thursday that Congress needs to provide those living illegally in the U.S. the means to rectify their situation.

The Washington-based National Association of Evangelicals has a 75-member board that represents 40 denominations and scores of Christian organizations. However, it does not include some of the best-known conservative Christian bodies, including the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family.

The group has taken stands in recent years that have run counter to Christian right views.

It endorsed an anti-torture statement in 2007 that renounced torture and “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees.” Other evangelical leaders have either resisted that view or remained silent on the issue.

The group has also argued that evangelicals have a biblical responsibility to the environment that includes combatting global warming. More tradition-minded evangelical activists believe an environmental focus distracts attention from abortion and gay marriage, or they don’t believe in global warming or that human activity causes it.