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Pro-immigration-reform evangelicals: Senate bill is not 'amnesty'
Leaders of the group Evangelical Immigration Table speak outside the U.S. Capitol.
April 17th, 2013
03:28 PM ET

Pro-immigration-reform evangelicals: Senate bill is not 'amnesty'

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - A leader of an evangelical Christian organization pushing for immigration reform said that while the group needs to read the whole bill filed Wednesday in the U.S. Senate before fully endorsing it, the legislation doesn’t constitute amnesty “in any dictionary in the English language.”

A bipartisan group of senators formally filed the immigration legislation early Wednesday calling for border security as the cornerstone of reform. The bill also would prevent undocumented immigrants from reaching full legal resident status until after the government takes steps to keep unauthorized workers from getting jobs in the United States, according to a summary released before the bill was filed.

Afterward, at an event kicking off a lobbying day for more than 300 evangelical pastors on Capitol Hill, Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a leader of Evangelical Immigration Table,  said that anyone who says the bill provides amnesty needs “a course in remedial English.”

“From what we understand, the bill that dropped this morning has accountability for those who are here in an undocumented status,” Land said. “It provides an earned pathway to full legal status and then to citizenship for those who want it. That is not amnesty in any dictionary in the English language.”

Some other groups have labeled as amnesty any measure that would give people who are in the country illegally the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.Evangelical Immigration Table leaders cautioned that they haven’t read the entire proposal.

“We are not heralding anything we haven’t read,” said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, senior pastor of the multicultural Lamb's Church in New York City. “What we are heralding is the principles we outlined close to two years ago.”

The group was founded in 2011 and has made a concerted effort in the past four months to make immigration reform a reality this year. After the November elections it released open letters to Congress and the White House calling for them to respect “the God-given dignity of every person” and establish a “path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and wish to become permanent residents.”

Representatives from the group met with President Barack Obama in March.

At Wednesday's event, local pastors, many of whom said they have been personally affected by ministering to people in the country illegally, said they are in Washington to speak out for those who aren’t able to speak for themselves.

“The challenges simply walk in our doors and manifest themselves before us, person by person, every single week,” said Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. “This caused us to turn to the scriptures which clearly taught us to welcome the stranger."

Since its inception, the group has said immigration is a spiritual and moral issue. That call was reiterated by the local pastors on Wednesday.

“First and foremost, for us, this is a biblical issue,” said Kenton Beshore, senior pastor a Mariners Church in Irvine, California. “We have to be people to teach God's words and also deal with the implications in real life.”

Following the event kickoff outside the Capitol, evangelical leaders held a morning worship service at the Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill and met with representatives from different congressional offices.

The goal – which the group called Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform – was to present a “unified evangelical voice [to] echo through the halls of Congress proclaiming a biblical vision for immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families and upholds human dignity.”

Representatives from the group said they will continue this work until immigration reform that meets their standards has been signed into law.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Immigration • Politics

soundoff (217 Responses)
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  5. Think again

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    May 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  6. Science

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  7. bob

    I don't like this article and I'd like to point out that Canada Free Press reporting Muslims are celebrating Boston Bombings. Interesting how the American press is in the back pocket of the USA president and the entire Democratic party. That's why this type of story won't show up in the American press down here. Thank you Canada Free Press for having the guts to tell the disturbing but yet important story. We Americans have to be woken up to who we are dealing worth and start keeping a watchful eye on our neighbors of certain descent. Sad but true. Please share this message fellow Americans. God bless all those harmed and the brave police officers who brought this incident to an end. Best wishes to all true Americans. Keep your eyes open for neighbors cooking in pressure cookers ion a heap of cow dung.

    April 21, 2013 at 2:01 am |
    • Science

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      Evolution wins hands down ..........time for god(s) to get the HELL out of the way................so humanity can evolve !

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

      April 21, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Science

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      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

      April 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  8. john

    If this Amnesty goes through, the GOP will be through as a political party. They are so naive to believe that they will buy the Hispanic vote through amnesty, but history tells a different story. The 1986 amnesty(and promise of a secure border ALMOST 30 YEARS AGO)gained few votes for the GOP , and the Hispanic vote for the GOP has been in decline ever since. They are fools. This Country needs a third party, NOW.

    April 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  9. MICHAEL WHITE

    It's amnesty because it does not require illegal aliens to return to their native country first and remain their to process immigration paperwork. Basically, what this immigration reform proposal is doing is allowing those entered the U.S. illegally to remain here while processing paperwork whereas those who never been here must remain in their own country while processing. How is that fair to them? What incentive does it give them to follow the law? Why should perspective immigrants follow the law if illegal aliens are getting a break? This proposal is unfair to them.

    April 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  10. saggyroy

    So this is a biblical issue? Then let them wander the desert for 40 years, then they can come in.

    April 19, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • bob

      I agree with you and I don't like this article and I'd like to point out that Canada Free Press is reporting that Muslims are celebrating Boston Bombings. Interesting how the American press is in the back pocket of the USA president and the entire Democratic party. That's why this type of story won't show up in the American press down here. Thank you Canada Free Press for having the guts to tell the disturbing but yet important story. We Americans have to be woken up to who we are dealing worth and start keeping a watchful eye on our neighbors of certain descent. Sad but true. Please share this message fellow Americans. God bless all those harmed and the brave police officers who brought this incident to an end. Best wishes to all true Americans. Keep your eyes open for neighbors cooking in pressure cookers ion a heap of cow dung.

      April 21, 2013 at 2:04 am |
  11. Hector

    Mexico's immigration laws are tougher that the United States. It's a shame that people who broke U.S immigration laws are getting amnesty. While people who have followed the law are getting laughed at for doing the right thing.

    April 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • .

      They're. Not. Getting. Amnesty. You lack anything approaching reading comprehension. Read the bill. This uis *very* tough.

      April 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • john

      .... and we will welcome more russians asylees to feed thru welfare so they can murder our people later.

      April 20, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @.

      I disagree. What's happening is that only some people are getting amnesty when certain conditions are met. Technically it's still amnesty and will still have the same impact.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  12. Edwin

    Jesus preached helping the poor and needy. It's too bad most folks in this so-called 'Christian' nation have forgotten His teachings and instead wallow in their own hatred for the very people He said to help.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.