Posts by Tara Culp-Ressler

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Tara Culp-Ressler
Tara Culp-Ressler, Faith in Public Life’s Executive and Development Assistant, came to FPL after graduating from American University and interning with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Interfaith Voices. She blogs about immigration and economic issues.

Americans Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Poll Shows

September 9, 2011, 11:46 am | By Tara Culp-Ressler

The Public Religion Research Institute recently released the results from a poll about attitudes in an “increasingly diverse” America ten years after September 11th. The poll’s findings on current American views of illegal immigration and the immigration system are encouraging, with the majority of respondents in favor of reforming our system to allow immigrants a path to citizenship–the basic tenet of the DREAM Act.

PRRI immigration graph.png

When asked separately about the best way to approach illegal immigration, a majority of Americans paradoxically respond in favor of both comprehensive immigration reform AND deportation. However, when asked to choose between the two, the poll shows that Americans strongly prefer that approach rather than deportation:

“When Americans are asked to choose between a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that couples enforcement with a path to citizenship on the one hand, and an enforcement and deportation only approach on the other, Americans prefer the comprehensive approach to immigration reform over the enforcement only approach by a large margin. More than 6-in-10 (62 percent) Americans say they prefer a strategy that secures the borders and provides an earned path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, compared to only 36 percent who support a strategy that secures the borders and seeks to arrest and deport all illegal immigrants already in the country.”

It’s clear that a significant majority of Americans recognize the human cost of harsh immigration laws and instead endorse a just, compassionate approach to immigration reform. As I pointed out earlier this week, faith communities have been at the forefront of this debate, opposing restrictive anti-immigration legislation in states like Alabama and Georgia. Just yesterday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced its support for ongoing protests against the new immigration law in Alabama, condemning the law as unjust. With religious leaders and public opinion both on the side of common-sense, common good immigration policy, it’s time for legislators to take notice.

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Georgia Governor Taps “Hate Group” Leader to Lead Immigration Enforcement

September 7, 2011, 1:58 pm | By Tara Culp-Ressler

Kent.jpgWe’ve reported on the stringent anti-immigration legislation that has been introduced in states across the country, including the harsh laws passed in Alabama and Georgia. Fortunately, the faith community has mobilized against these controversial immigration laws, supporting justice for immigrants based on their moral convictions.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal could take a cue from his state’s religious communities. Rather than coming out in opposition to Georgia’s restrictive law, which has prompted thousands of residents to protest for the rights of their families and neighbors, Gov. Deal has formed an Immigration Enforcement Review Board to ensure the proper enforcement of the new law. Furthermore, he has appointed Phil Kent, a national spokesman for Americans for Immigration Control, to serve on the seven-member panel–despite the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified AIC as a hate group since 2001.

The Southern Poverty Law Center links Kent to several white elitist groups, including a neo-Confederate group and an organization lobbying to make English the national language. As SPLC’s deputy legal director explains, “These are white supremacist organizations. This isn’t an organization that merely takes a restrictionist view on immigration. There are plenty of orgs that take a restrictionist view on immigration that are not hateful.”

With the increasing momentum to seek common sense ways to address our nation’s broken immigration system — such as the Obama Administration’s recent suspension of the deportation of undocumented immigrations without a criminal record — it is clear that we need a new way forward on this issue. People of faith have emphasized the need for a just, compassionate approach to the immigration debate; however, Gov. Deal’s enforcement panel represents exactly the opposite. Extremists have no place in this debate. We’re hoping that the people of Georgia will continue to stand up against bigotry.

Photo: Phil Kent

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New Obama Immigration Policy: Huge Step in the Right Direction

August 19, 2011, 12:34 pm | By Tara Culp-Ressler

stopdeportation.jpgIn a positive step forward on the path to immigration reform, the Obama administration has announced the suspension of deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants who don’t pose a threat to national security or public safety. Under the policy, the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who don’t have a criminal record won’t face the threat of deportation and separation from their loved ones. As Adam Serwer notes, this is a victory for all those who have been pushing back on the administration’s deportation strategy so far and calling for a fair, compassionate approach to reforming the nation’s immigration policy, including so many people of faith.

J. Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the New York Times that the new initiative honors religious values by keeping immigrant families together. “It is consistent with the teaching of the church that human rights should be respected, regardless of an immigrant’s legal status,” he said.

The Obama administration deserves praise for this move. As the momentum around the passage of Durbin’s DREAM Act has increased and faith communities have continued to speak out against anti-immigration laws that contradict their values, it’s gratifying to see a new policy in line with the moral call to approach immigration reform with compassion and human dignity.

Photo credit: Todd Dwyer, Flickr

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Christians for a Sustainable Economy’s frivolous critique, ctd.

August 5, 2011, 2:00 pm | By Tara Culp-Ressler

Today, we’ve been highlighting the new conservative coalition Christians for a Sustainable Economy and their misguided critiques of the Circle of Protection’s call to not balance the budget on the backs of the poor. We’re not the only ones finding fault with CASE’s weak arguments. Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, puts it this way:

“The arguments of the Circle and CASE both have merit. But the Circle’s approach is more urgent. Public spending on poverty and global health programs is a sliver of discretionary spending and essentially irrelevant to America’s long-term debt. A political argument giving equal weight to cuts in poverty programs and reductions in entitlement spending is uninformed about the nature of the budget crisis, which is largely a health-entitlement crisis. A simplistic philosophy of ‘shared sacrifice,’ focused mainly on cuts in discretionary spending, requires disproportionate sacrifices of the most vulnerable. If religious people do not make this case, it is difficult to determine what distinctive message they offer.”

It’s encouraging that Gerson sees the logical fallacy in the deep spending cuts that GOP politicians continue to demand. However, Michael Sean Winters pushes Gerson’s point even further in the National Catholic Reporter:

“…There is a different difficulty in comparing the bishops’ ‘Circle of Protection’ and the CASE approach, one that escapes Gerson’s otherwise discerning eye. He allows that ‘the Circle’s approach is more urgent’ but he fails to note that the Circle’s approach is rooted in centuries of social justice teaching applied to the circumstances of today. The CASE approach evidences a different orthodoxy, an economic orthodoxy rooted in the specifically anti-Christian teachings of the Austrian school of economics and its American cheerleaders like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. When CASE makes claims about promoting ‘economic freedom and growth,’ they are not appealing to a particular verse of Scripture, are they?”

Good point. Despite the fact that CASE is attempting to draw a parallel with the Circle of Protection by relying on similar values-based language, Rand-inspired economic philosophy is not compatible with Biblical principles. This is not a case of two different perspectives on achieving a faithful budget; rather, it’s a case of religious values contrasted with empty religious rhetoric.

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Christians for a Sustainable Economy’s frivolous critique

August 5, 2011, 9:27 am | By Tara Culp-Ressler

AEI ad.jpgNow that religious voices like the Circle of Protection have succeeded in highlighting the dangers of cuts to government programs that protect the most vulnerable, right-wing voices are scrambling to reinsert themselves into the national conversation. This week, conservative groups such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) project on Values and Capitalism, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the American Center for Law and Justice, the Acton Institute, and the Family Research Council signed onto a letter organized by Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE), a coalition created to challenge the progressive religious narrative about a moral economy.

These signatories have launched a coordinated attack–including op-eds, radio ads, and a full-page ad in Politico–aiming to obscure the truth that safety net programs are crucial for protecting the poor. These groups are trumpeting conservative talking points about “welfare dependency” and the “threat” of government spending, harkening to the misguided assumption that private charity alone is sufficient to meet all citizens’ needs.

However, when it comes to articulating their own plan for caring for the poor while managing the debt, these critics offer mostly generic platitudes rather than a substantive approach. For example, when the Washington Post asked which government programs should be cut under the debt ceiling plan, AEI Values and Capitalism project head Eric Teetsel suggested eliminating “inefficiencies and redundancies throughout the budget” instead of providing a clear plan of action.

As we’ve pointed out before, several of these right-wing groups support draconian fiscal policies that would necessarily rely on extreme spending cuts that would harm struggling families by decimating the crucial programs to help them meet their needs during hard times. The Politico ad (placed by AEI) states that “our duty as people of faith is to advocate for just policies that advance human thriving,” but that certainly doesn’t describe the harmful effects of privatizing Medicare and block-granting Medicaid–policies AEI endorses that will jeopardize the health and even the lives of vulnerable people.

Conservative groups may be setting up a parallel to the Circle of Protection’s campaign by using similar values language and communications strategies, but they can’t disguise the fact that their economic philosophy harms the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable. The notion that depriving sick people of healthcare “advances human thriving” is, to say the least, a bit of a stretch. CASE is standing against the thousands of people of faith who share the principles of the Circle of Protection–including over 4,000 clergy, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and dozens of denominations and humanitarian organizations–not to mention the basic Biblical teaching that informs the call for economic justice.

Photo: AEI’s full-page ad in Politico

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