The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has a post on The Hill’s Congress Blog today which contains several common, inaccurate arguments against comprehensive immigration reform. It goes even further though, by making an evangelical case for… well, cruelty.
On the matter of how to address the millions of people who are here in violation of America’s immigration laws, Fishcer proposes:
We should instead deal with the 12 to 20 million illegals [sic] currently in the country through attrition, by making access to any taxpayer-funded resource — whether education, welfare or healthcare — contingent upon proof of legal residency.
Once illegals realize they will be sent home the moment they come to the attention of any government agency or any branch of law enforcement, they will immediately stop being a drain on taxpayer resources and will be the most law-abiding residents we have.
Note how Fischer euphemizes the denial of people’s most basic needs by using the clinical-sounding term “attrition.” What he’s really proposing is inflicting so much suffering on his brothers and sisters that they will return to the poverty and lack of opportunity they came to America to overcome. Although Fischer sprinkles individual Bible verses throughout his essay to support various arguments that few people contest (for example, citing Acts 17:26 to support the right to secure the border), he doesn’t offer any Biblical support for his proposal to deny people education, medicine, housing and food – probably because there isn’t any. (As an aside, I’d suggest that if Fischer is convinced of the righteousness of his stance, he should stand guard in the hospital doors himself and turn away a mother and her seriously ill children because she can’t prove her citizenship.)
And regarding the issue of the families torn apart by deportation, Fischer suggests:
Enforcing our immigration policy need not break up families. The president sent spouses and children along when he deported the Russian spies, and we can do the same with every illegal alien. We do not want to separate husbands from wives, or children from parents, so our policy should be to repatriate entire families together to preserve family integrity.
At a pro-immigration reform rally in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday, a mother and her two American-citizen daughters (ages 10 and 5) shared the story the girls’ father’s ongoing incarceration for re-entering the country illegally. That’s a violation of the law, and violating the law needs to have consequences. However, deportation of the entire family crosses the threshold of cruel and unusual punishment. If we’re serious about valuing family unity, wouldn’t a simpler, cheaper, fairer, more compassionate solution be to hold the father accountable for his actions, while giving him an opportunity to raise his daughters, support his family, earn a wage and contribute to our economy and his community?
That’s exactly what moderate and conservative evangelical leaders are calling for, and what prompted Fischer’s piece. And the contrast between the measured, compassionate, and practical approach taken by the likes of Leith Anderson (of the NAE) and Matt Staver (of Liberty Counsel) and the cruel one Fischer advocates couldn’t be more striking.
Faithful America’s “Driven by Faith, Not by Fear” campaign this summer is mobilizing people of faith across the country to stand up to hateful rhetoric that distorts and inflames our public dialogue. An example of this kind of speech came up at a political rally in Colorado this weekend, where Rep. Michele Bachmann said America has moved toward a return to slavery since President Obama took office. From the Colorado Independent:
In a room of 600 conservative voters brought together by former Colorado Senate president John Andrews’ Centennial Institute, along with Liberty on the Rocks and Colorado Christian University, Bachmann brought the crowd to its feet more than once as she called for an end to the progressive agenda she said has taken over Washington.
“‘We are determined to live free or not at all. And we are resolved that posterity shall never reproach us with having brought slaves into the world,’” Bachmann read from founding father John Jay , ending her reading with the statement, “We will talk a little bit about what has transpired in the last 18 months and would we count what has transpired into turning our country into a nation of slaves.”
Seriously, a nation of slaves? Show me the chains, the lashes, the sale of human beings, the captivity, the brutal working conditions, the denial of basic personal freedom. We have Constitutional amendments ensuring that this never happens again. Suggesting that America is on its way back to slavery couldn’t be more misleading. People of faith need to stand up and declare that this kind of rhetoric has no place in public discourse. It’s antithetical to our values. To join Faithful America’s summer campaign to counter misleading fearmongering such as Bachmann’s, visit Faithfulamerica.org.
Also, Colorado Christian University, which participated in the event, lists among its strategic objectives “be seekers of truth” and “debunk ‘spent ideas’ and those who traffic in them.” I hope they execute these objectives in the wake of Bachmann’s remarks. The most cursory search for truth would reveal her accusations to be groundless. Furthermore, conservative arguments that progressive policies will lead to the demise of freedom – accusations made about Social Security, Medicare and now health care reform – have repeatedly not come true. How long until such rhetoric gets classified as a “spent idea”?
A delegation of nationally prominent faith leaderstraveled to the Gulf this week to survey the devastation wrought by the ongoing oil spill, and churches across the region and country are reaching out to people in need and speaking out about the catastrophe. Look for this to continue throughout the summer. On Sunday July 18, the Evangelical Environmental Network and the National Association of Evangelicals are organizing a National Day of Prayer for the Gulf. Numerous evangelical churches in the Gulf region and across the country will observe by including in their worship services prayers for “the people of the Gulf, for God’s creation in the gulf, and for the Lord’s intervention and deliverance.” Given EEN’s tireless work to promote creation care, along with the NAE’s nationwide reach and commitment to environmental stewardship, this looks to be an inspiring event in congregations across the country.
There’s been a lot of buzz over the past few years about a shift within the evangelical Christian community, as younger Christians engage in their local and global communities on a range of issues– from nuclear weapons to educational inequalities to AIDS and genocide. Check out this clip from ABC News, where we hear from some leading young evangelical leaders (including Nicole Baker Fulgham, FPL board member):
Numbers USA, an organization whose goal is “lower immigration levels,” is encouraging their members to take action to stop passage of comprehensive immigration reform, including putting pressure on clergy who speak out in favor of reform. The action alert they sent Friday included the following:
On Tuesday, leaders from a majority of the country’s largest churches held a
meeting in Washington announcing their support for a mass illegal alien amnesty. It’s a sad fact that most of America’s religious leaders hold completely different political views than their members…
…go to your Action Board and send any faxes of protest you’ll find there to your religious leaders.
The premise of this call to action–that there is a divide between the pews and the pulpit on support for reform–is false. Recent nationwide polling shows that a broad range of people of faith overwhelmingly support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Public Religion Research Institute’s national poll released this spring demonstrates that Catholics, white evangelicals, and white mainline protestants all support comprehensive immigration reform— including an earned path to citizenship– by two-to-one margins over an enforcement-only policy. In fact, the poll showed that these three groups favor immigration reform even more than religiously unaffiliated Americans. (The full report is available here.)
Furthermore, PRRI’s research demonstrates that a majority of regular worship attendees approve of clergy speaking out on the issue immigration reform from the pulpit, and Â¾ of regular attendees approve of clergy speaking about the issue in the media and in other public forums such as community meetings.
Also, Numbers USA’s claim that the clergy who spoke out last week support “amnesty” is disingenuous and misleading. What faith leaders mean by comprehensive immigration reform is basically the opposite of “amnesty”–reform would require immigrants who are here illegally to pay fines and any back taxes they may owe, hold jobs, pass background checks, and study English in order to earn citizenship. “Amnesty” might be Numbers USA’s buzzword of choice, but it’s not a remotely accurate description of the policy.
Numbers USA’s false claims and loaded language may motivate their base to attack pastors for standing up for their principles, but we know that clergy leaders won’t back down in fighting to keep families together and fix a system that doesn’t protect our interests or our values as a nation.