White House receives political cover on immigration from religious groups
The American Catholic bishops, who have been critical of the Obama White House on many issues, applauded Friday's immigration announcement.
June 15th, 2012
04:23 PM ET

White House receives political cover on immigration from religious groups

By Jessica Yellin and Dan Merica

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama is receiving political cover for his decision to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants from two big groups with whom his relations have been rocky: evangelical Christians and Catholics.

“We do give credit where credit is due,” said Kevin Appleby, director of Migration and Public Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Friday, when Obama made his announcement.

“We welcome the announcement, it will provide important relief to a vulnerable group that we believe should remain in the country,” Appleby said. “They didn't come here on their own volition; they came here with their parents. They are virtually Americans.”

In recent months, the Catholic bishops have hammered the White House over its new rule requiring insurance companies to offer free contraception to all employees, with a major Catholic religious liberty campaign around the issue scheduled to launch later this month. The Catholic Church has filed dozens of lawsuits across the country against the so-called contraception mandate.

It would seem that the White House learned from that fallout, consulting with religious leaders in advance of Friday’s immigration announcement.

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Earlier this week, senior White House officials met with a diverse group of evangelical organizations on the issue of immigration reform. That group, which included conservative Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, progressive evangelical Jim Wallis and the National Association of Evangelicals’ Leith Anderson, endorsed an “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform” that includes calling for a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

The statement also called for respect for “the God given dignity of every person” and respect for “the rule of law.”

The president’s Friday announcement was met with praise by some top leaders in the American evangelical community, a demographic the president has struggled with, largely over his recently announced support for gay marriage and his support of abortion rights.

“This new policy is good news for America and is good news for undocumented young adults who came to America through the choice of others,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, on Friday. “It is the right thing to do.”

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Jim Wallis, who leads a social justice group called Sojourners, called the Friday announcement from Obama “very good news for 1 million young people who have a dream of staying in the country where they have lived most of their lives.”

“As evangelicals we love the ‘good news’ of the gospel, and today we affirm this good news that gives hope and a future for young immigrants who are an important part of both the church and this country,” Wallis said.

Under the new policy, people younger than 30 who came to the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and were successful students or served in the military can get a two-year deferral from deportation, according to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The announcement drew sharp criticism from many conservative political groups and leaders, who say the new policy is tantamount to amnesty or is a big step toward amnesty for hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people.

Not all evangelical groups were supportive of the president’s decision, either.

“We are not supporting this announcement,” said Tom Minnery, a senior vice president at Focus on the Family, an evangelical organization headquartered in Colorado. “The first two years he had Democratic control of Congress and promised to fix immigration in his first year and he hasn’t done so. It is hard to take the president seriously after that.”

Minnery’s comments come after Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, supported the broad evangelical statement of principles.

“We believe that the biblical notion of the family is so significant that anything we can do aims to keep families together,” we will support, said Minnery.

That notion means that many evangelicals consider keeping families together an issue of faith, says Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.

“Evangelicals care about keeping families together and deportation splits families up,” Jones said. “Evangelicals certainly have a long history in thinking about the importance of family and keeping parents in the home. Some of the realities of the current policy evoke a passionate response among evangelicals.”

In a survey last year by PRRI, most evangelicals were supportive of comprehensive immigration reform. When asked how to deal with illegal immigration, 54% of evangelicals supported a plan that included a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the United States. Forty three percent supported deportation.

The August poll also points to a generational divide among evangelicals. When asked about policies that include a path to citizenship, 55% of evangelicals 18-39 years old supported the idea. By comparison, only 34% of evangelicals 65 and older supported the same policy.

Younger evangelicals “have grown up in a more diverse world then their parents and grandparents and that has given them a different perspective on this issue,” Jones said.

One senior administration official sees talks over immigration as the start of a conversation with evangelicals. “While today's Dream Act actions were not discussed in that meeting, the broad support of conservative evangelicals for immigration reform was welcomed by the administration.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Bishops • Catholic Church • Immigration • Politics

soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Greg

    In general, immigration is one of the few cases where I agree with democrats. I'm generally all about the America that asked for those huddles masses yearning to breathe free, and would like to see the process become dramatically easier across the board. In particular, the concept of the dream act feels like common sense to me. That being said, this is being done in the entirely wrong way.

    The legislative branch makes the laws (legislates), and the executive branch enacts them (executes). The latter refusing to enforce the laws of the former is, quite frankly, overstepping it's boundaries and not doing it's job. As for the USCCB, in the light of the general response of the president's failure to enforce DOMA as an overstepping of his authority, I can't help but feel that supporting the decision in this case is a bit on the hypocritical side. We can't just pick and choose when we think the president should do his job based on when it's convenient to us.

    For the sake of acknowledging the other side of the argument, I could see where making a claim that not enforcing an unjust law is justifiable. That being said, I believe that allowing an individual in the person of the president the right to make that decision would cause more damage than good, particularly with the current administration (their track record with regards to Catholic social teachings and morality isn't exactly spectacular).

    Just my thoughts on the subject.

    June 18, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  2. Dr. C.L.

    Obama does not have the authority to change State Lawa.

    June 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  3. ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

    One question, as always comes to mind with the pointy hats.

    June 17, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  4. Jack

    Happy "Father" Day ...Everyone is welcome to visit thestarofkaduri.com

    June 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  5. Not really

    Hey all you Hispanic Catholics, which is the majority of you. Stop breeding like rabbits, if you cant afford 12 kids dont have them. Im tired of you people expecting my tax dollar to support your brood and religion. If your religion doesnt like you to use contraceptives, THEN YOUR CHURCH CAN SUPPORT YOU... Time for a limit on welfare.....

    June 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • mema

      Oh ok so y©u believe in evoluti©n. So if thats the case they are simply doing whats in their hunter gatherer instincts huh. Make lots of offspring to ensure mans survival. So whats the problem? Oh but its ok for those Duggers, y@u whit€s love to watch to have 20 kids and counting! Whatever!!

      June 18, 2012 at 2:15 am |
  6. Not really

    hey Communist News Network... Stop censoring my comments

    June 17, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  7. TonyC

    So, it's ok to break the immigration laws when is suits them, but not to break the law (1st Ammendment) when it does't suit them. OK, now I get it!

    June 17, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Madeline

      My sentiments exactly TonyC.

      June 17, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  8. Emgeekay

    This is a good move in the right direction BUT it could/ should have been done 3 years ago lawfully through Congress. It still does not deal with the problem of good, productive famlies who have lived here for decades with the constant fear of being deported or broken up. Nor does it address the important question of citizenship for these young people.

    Am I wrong to think this is a cynical and desperate political ploy by Obama to grab votes befor the November reckoning?

    June 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  9. Urafkntool

    They came here with their parents? Fine. Send them AND their parents back. they don't belong here.

    June 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • mema

      Oh and how did y©u and your ancestors arrive here. Imagrants I presume! Go back where y©u came from! This country is entirely made up of imagrants, get over it, y©ur ancestors did! They abandoned their native country for a new prospect.

      June 18, 2012 at 2:23 am |
  10. DonS

    Yeah–let's show Catholic Americans how much the bishops despise them.

    June 16, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • AGuest9

      Cheap labor AND little boys. A win-win for the pervs.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  11. Jack

    Good morning everyone, you are welcome to visit ... thestarofkaduri.com

    June 16, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  12. Cosmo

    When was the last time Congress voted for anything in this Country?

    June 16, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • Cosmo

      The responsibility for doing a deal belongs to Congress, not the White House.

      June 16, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • w5cdt

      Republicans = crybabies

      June 16, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Veritas

      It was difficult for Republicans because the Democrats didn't pass one single [R] Bill from 2006 – 2010. And even after that – that snot-nosed replica of a garden gnome – Harry Reid kept ELEVEN [R] Bills on his desk. Those Bills never saw daylight.

      And the Democrats did it so they could blame the Republicans for doing nothing! And all the terminally brain dead lioberals fell for it!

      June 16, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  13. rikers

    It had nothing to do with religious leaders. It was nothing more than a political ploy to get the Latino vote.

    June 16, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • Ken in Texas

      I agree

      June 16, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Veritas

      Abso-blooming-lutely! Obama's not even clever about it!

      June 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    June 16, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • Troll

      Thus spake the troll.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • truth given

      is never trolling

      June 16, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • JWT

      Thus it is indeed trolling.

      June 17, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~

      June 17, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven Truths

      June 17, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  15. Bart

    Apparently, Emperor Obama can pick and choose which laws he wishes to enforce. There is no need to 'dream' if you entered the country legally.

    June 16, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • Mike Blackadder


      June 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  16. neken7

    It's incredible, the irony that many of the people who are in favor of deporting a kid from the only home they've ever known, also consider themselves good Christians. What you're saying here is, you want to take a kid, who was brought here by their parents, who has lived here basically their entire life and everything they love and care about is here... you want to rip them all away from that with nothing more than a "GET OUT, ILLEGAL!". Do you honestly think Jesus would look that person in the eye and say "I know you've lived here almost your entire life. I know this is the only home you know. I know you have your entire life invested here. I know your parents brought you here and you didn't have any choice in the matter... but you're going to have to leave."

    It's unfortunate these Christians aren't more like Christ.

    June 16, 2012 at 4:58 am |
    • Travis

      Really cause I remember your god kicking two of his children out of the garden of eden for what was it again? oh yeah stealing one little apple. Those two were born and raised in that place. Maybe you shouldnt put so much trust into an imaginary being.

      June 16, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  17. MAXinAZ

    Our Governor is just embarrassing.

    June 16, 2012 at 3:28 am |
    • NPhxAz

      You see those 40 dope dealers they rounded up the week before last? Which one was your kid?

      June 16, 2012 at 5:11 am |
  18. MAXinAZ

    And the GOP just had the rug pulled out from under them. Expect more.

    June 16, 2012 at 3:19 am |
    • thetruth

      this will mean nothing come November...independents will decide this election...and polls show them leaving Obama like a house on fire...it's unraveling

      June 16, 2012 at 3:29 am |
    • WhereDidTheDialogGo

      "thetruth"???? Dontcha really mean "my truth"???

      June 16, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • AGuest9

      @thetruth – perhaps leaving, but the problem is that there is no where to go! Then again, if Bush was in the White House, Qaddafi would still be running Libya.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • vulpecula

      I'm an Independent and there is no way I'm voting for Romney. Would have considered Huntsmen, but the GOP never gave him a chance.

      June 18, 2012 at 4:59 am |
  19. Truth and Legend

    A young boy is brought into this country illegally by his parents. Knowing nothing of borders, nor the selfishness that some adults have that a section of land is their, and only theirs, he grows up like every other kid. He makes friends, goes to school, plays football. When he reaches adult hood he decides to join the military and help defend the only country he's ever known.

    Democratic response? Thank you for your service. You shouldn't have to live in fear of deportation due to a choice made by your parents.

    Republican response? Thank you for your service. Now get the fk out off our land!

    A little girl is born to parents who snuck into this country years ago. Knowing nothing of borders, nor the selfishness that some adults have that a section of land belongs only to them, she grows up hanging out with the girls, goes to school, joins the band, heads off to college and earns a business degree. After graduation she joins the workforce and does a spectacular job contributing to the betterment of the company. She is playing her small part in helping to improve the business and economy, and she never fails to pay her taxes.

    Democratic response? Thank you for your service. You shouldn't have to live in fear of deportation due to a choice made by your parents.

    Republican response? Thank you for your service. Now get the fk out off our land!

    Now for those taking the time to read this, please ask yourself – How many of you actually chose to be born in America? How many of you consider yourself lucky to have been born here? Can you imagine being born here, growing up, making friends and looking forward to experiencing all that is life, only for the feds to suddenly show up and tell you to get the F out?

    Does anyone notice the similarity between grown ass people crying out "This is our land!", and "That's my toy!" which is selfishly exclaimed by the 6 year old child?

    June 16, 2012 at 3:17 am |
    • thetruth


      June 16, 2012 at 3:26 am |
    • Kenny pittard

      Thank-you for your comment! I agree 100%!

      June 16, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • Ken Meyer

      Truth and Legend;

      How nice of you to volunteer to give up OTHERS "land" and "toys"! Those of us who consider this OUR "land" and OUR "toys" really appreciate people like you jumping in there and unilaterally making the decision to give it all away for us.

      June 16, 2012 at 6:18 am |
    • Cosmo


      June 16, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • Mike Blackadder

      It is in Democrat's interest to make illegal immigrants legal because everyone knows that this will be s strong voting base for them. There is no reason to think that they do this out of compassion or tht Republicans take the opposite stance out of lack of compassion. At least the republican position is to uphold the law of the land. The position of the Democrat leaders is indefensible, because at the same time they show no interest In preventing illegal immigration. This is an insult to those who follow the legal process of immigration; who show respect for the rule of law even when it is difficult.

      I'm much more impressed with evangelical Christians and Catholic bishops who perceive th injustice of tearing families apart through deportation and who will stand by the President on this issue despite that being politically inconvenient.

      June 16, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Ken in Texas

      "A young boy is brought into this country illegally by his parents"
      And the logical response is, "You knew you were here illegally, yet you didn't do anything about it. Why did you just sit on your butt and steal your free education and skip out on your medical bills and let the US taxpayer pick up the tab? You just thought if you waited long enough, the PC crowd will let me jump in front of the immigrants who worked hard to gain legal entry.

      June 16, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  20. Brian Monosso

    I cannot wait for the American Spring.

    June 16, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • b4bigbang

      Well you'll have to now wontcha?

      June 16, 2012 at 1:10 am |
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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.