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
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

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)
  1. angryoldguy

    Freedom of speech gives proof to the fact that our country is chock full of bigoted, hate-filled, paranoid IDIOTS!

    April 18, 2013 at 1:31 am |
  2. breathalyzers4fun

    If they are going to allow them to stay in the US as non-citizens then they should reside in Washington DC so they can get the most help. This would also allow Washington to experience the problems that happen in Arizona and Texas. Can DC live with it?

    April 18, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • Straight to the Rim

      We have laws against cruel and unusual punishment.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • gerald Hintlian

      Let the church support all the illegals with THEIR money, not mine. Of course we all know that will NEVER happen. Anymore than the Catholic Church would even think of supporting all the poor children that they recommended everybody have!!!

      April 18, 2013 at 1:39 am |
  3. Ricke1949

    Read the verses in Romans about respecting the government and its laws. Then speak for the whole bible Hybels.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:26 am |


      April 18, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  4. Hollee572

    I'm confused. Why are we wanting to give criminals citizenship? Shouldn't people who sneak into the country illegally be deported? Why on earth would someone want to do this?

    April 18, 2013 at 12:09 am |
    • Adam

      You need that course they were talking about.

      April 18, 2013 at 1:26 am |
    • Edwin

      For at least two reasons:

      1). Our agricultural system needs them; without them, produce would not be picked and prices would skyrocket. It has been demonstrated many times that American citizens do not generally take this sort of work when it is offered, so without alien workers there would be a food crisis.

      2). Their crime is on par with reckless driving. How many teenagers do you know that we would have to deport if we did so for THAT offense? Calling them criminals might make you feel better about yourself, but they have not done any of the activities most people think of when they hear the word criminal... but you already knew that, I suspect.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:07 am |
  5. Robin Jones

    The opinions of a group of evangelical Christians about immigration reform are just as meaningless at the endless political advice dished out by Hollywood's celebrity trend-surfers.

    April 17, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  6. nothing new here

    Right-wing Republicans call this bill 'amnesty'.
    Right-wing Evangelicals say it is not...
    Now pass the popcorn.

    April 17, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  7. nothing new here

    Yes, yes, yes!!!!
    Let the GOP infighting continue.
    Nothing better than a good mudslinging.

    April 17, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Bill

      What makes you think these ministers MUST be republicans. Not all of us who ar born again Christians are republicans. In fact, a healthy number of us are not.

      April 17, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • nothing new here

      You mean God's Own Party is no longer the place for God's Own People?

      April 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Bill, there is nothing healthy about being stupid.

      April 17, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  8. jimmorrisonmania

    I'm not sure why evangelicals want amnesty. I understand why the Catholic Church wants it. Most of the illegals are from the southern border and 90% are catholic. It means more money for the Catholic Church.

    April 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • MikeInNebraska

      Great post and true!

      April 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • nothing new here

      Because the evangelicals need to stick their noses into everyone's business.

      April 17, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • clearsight

      They want it because they're good people. All that you can apparently think about is yourself, what is in YOUR best interest.

      April 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  9. robtemery

    In the local news today, Father Alejandro Solalinde a Catholic Priest from Mexico who is organizing a march from San Diego to Washington DC to have the US government do something about Central American Immigrants being victimized entering Mexico by Mexicans since the Mexican gov won't

    April 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm |


      April 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  10. Bootyfunk

    too bad the biggest opponents of immigration are christians. all the "god-fearin" people of the south... ask them about immigration.

    April 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • Bill

      That is absolutely false. You are talking about something you know nothing about. Most Christians absolutely believe their needs to be complete immigration reform including opening the doors to the USA to more people who want to move here. Obviously, youd prefer not to have drug cartels and people on Interpol's most wanted list coming in but we can accomodate far more people.

      April 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
  11. Let them in!


    April 17, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  12. Big Shiz

    The atheist extremists are out thick today.

    April 17, 2013 at 7:11 pm |


      April 17, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  13. Colin

    Q.1 The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the religion of:

    (a) The ancient Celts;

    (b) Bronze Age Egyptians;

    (c) Pre-Colombian Aztecs; or

    (d) Modern Evangelical Christians

    Q. 2 You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are:

    (a) a reptile handler who has severe mental issues;

    (b) a five year old boy who just read a fairytale;

    (c) a scientific fraud; or

    (d) an Evangelical Christian

    Q. 3 I believe that an all-knowing being, powerful enough to create the entire cosmos and its billions of galaxies, watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty" like protect myself from disease with a condom. I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions; or

    (d) An Evangelical Christian

    Q.4 I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A gifted psychologist

    (b) A well respected geneticist

    (c) A highly educated sociologist; or

    (d) An evangelical Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    Q5. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Evangelical Christian

    Q6. Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    Q.7 The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q.8 What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from Christianity:

    (a) Christianity tells people not only what they should believe, but what they MUST believe under threat of “burning in hell” or other of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Christianity can make a statement, such as “God is comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas Christianity is regional and a person’s Christianity, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than geographical upbringing; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.9 If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Q.10 Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) the mafia

    (c) A drug pusher; or

    (d) any given Christian church

    Q.11 What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:

    (a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;

    (b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;

    (c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.12 The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:

    (a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;

    (b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;

    (c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions as “boots on the ground” to distribute condoms; or

    (d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.

    Q.13 The statement “I believe in God because the Bible tells me to and the reason I follow the Bible is because it is the word of God” is:

    (a) Circular reasoning at its most obvious;

    (b) The reason 99% of Evangelical Christians believe what they do;

    (c) Specific to the Judeo-Christian parts of the World and totally rejected by all other parts of the World; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.14 Probably the most fundamental tenet of Christian faith is that God sent his son Jesus to Earth to die and save us from the original sin of Adam and Eve. We now know that Adam and Eve was a myth. As such, any thinking Christian should:

    (a) Honestly and courageously question this and any other aspects of their faith that don’t make sense.

    (b) Make up some euphemistic nonsense like “well, we didn’t mean that literally” after having done exactly that for the last 1900 years until science comprehensively disproved it.

    (c) Just ignore the blatant contradiction and sweep it under the mat; or

    (d) Hold on to the myth because it makes them feel good.

    Q.15 Please choose your favorite Christian superst.ition from those below. For the one you choose, please say why it is any more ridiculous than the rest of the garbage Catholics swallow and give an example of a non-Catholic belief which is just as stupid.

    (a) Grocery store bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because a priest does some hocus pocus over it in church of a Sunday morning.

    (b) When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.

    (c) You can pray to a dead person for something. This dead person will then ask God to fulfill your wish. If this happens twice, this dead person becomes a saint.

    (d) A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.

    Q16. If you are worried that your children, who you love very much, will not believe something you tell them, such as "smoking is bad for you," would you:

    (a) have your family doctor explain to them the various ill effects of smoking;

    (b) show them a film produced by the National Insti.tute for Health on the topic;

    (c) set a good example for them by not smoking; or

    (d) refuse to give them any evidence of the ill effects of smoking, insist that they rely entirely on faith and then take them out into the backyard and burn them to death if you ever catch them smoking?

    And, as a bonus question, what would you think of an "all loving Father" who chose option (d)?

    April 17, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Not much money in writing term paper questionnaires is there? I want to change my job in the near future.

      April 17, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • nothing new here

      I had not idea that Evangelicals were against smoking – learn something new everyday 🙂

      April 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Bob1god

      Repeat.rehash, umm, hash, me want sum. Got go to Turkey now, see ya!

      April 18, 2013 at 4:31 am |
  14. Colin

    I am yet to encounter agroup in any political system anwhere in the World, who can match American Evangelicals for pure, unadulterated stupidity. I swear, about 80% of these people believe the World is about 6,000 years old, began with a man, a woman and a talking snake, and went through a worldwide freshwater flood.

    I'm sorry, but they are super, super stupid.

    April 17, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Badda Bing

      At least they have achieved excellence in some category.

      April 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • Colin

      And which category would that be?

      April 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • JTR22

      While most of what you said may be true, the possibility of a worldwide flood isn't entirely improbable, if you really think about it. It does provide another THEORY for how dinosaurs became extinct. Let's say, there is a gigantic worldwide flood somehow (divine or not). Dinosaurs, to my knowledge, aren't exactly excellent deep sea swimmers, so they would have drowned and the bodies sunk to the bottom. When the waters receded, it left lots of sediment on top of the dinosaurs which created all those layers on top of the dead dinosaurs and fossilized them. It sounds completely probable and scientifically possible.

      So while they might be stupid, they might not be entirely wrong about EVERYTHING. Not that I'm one of them, but if their creation theory is false (according to the Bible), a couple wrong facts doesn't invalidate the entire book. There is historical proof showing the historical context of the Bible for the Jewish people. A couple incorrect facts does not invalidate your average history textbook, so let's look at the Bible as a history book with some debatable "facts." Fair, no? If you truly believe in the pursuit of scientific and historical proof, you would study the entire Bible and search for what is true and what is not, not just find one misconception and invalidate the entire religion's holy book. That's what I'm doing.

      April 17, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • Bill

      Hey Colin ... here is a scientific fact to chew on ... feel free to google ..... science has determind that, according to the "Big Bang" theory, the universe started out as a dense, sub atomic particle and then, in the blink of an eye, expanded to "EXACTLY" the size it is now before cooling etc.
      Three questions .... 1. who created that dense subatomic particle 2. Who caused it to explode and 3. Who would have the immense power to create what we know now as the universe in "the blink of an eye".
      Until you can answer those questions with something other than "uuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" I will be very comfortable with my faith in a supernatural Creator.

      April 17, 2013 at 11:13 pm |


      April 18, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  15. A Conversation

    So, apparently, to answer your question, you know nothing. Tax exempt status does not come with the prohibition against lobbying (because if that were the case, no tax exempt organization could).

    April 17, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • A Conversation

      sorry, that we meant below for Rob, our resident professor of political science.

      April 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm |


      April 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

      When you're done browsing the 29 tax exemption provisions, paying particular attention to 501(c)(3), you have my permission to leave and never bother coming back.

      April 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  16. Bob1god

    HBDC, I want to marry my cat, can u do over the intranet thingy?

    April 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • .

      When you cat can give informed consent, sure. Otherwise it's cat rape.

      April 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • nothing new here

      Cats are not people, only corporations are people.
      But please feel free to marry your Internet Service Provider – you 2 would make a lovely couple.

      April 17, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • momzna

      Sure! I hereby pronounce you cat and wife. You may now kiss your bride.

      April 18, 2013 at 3:06 am |
  17. americabetrayed

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's a effin' duck. This is amnesty, plain and simple, and progressive RINO Rubio is no better than the corrupt Comrade ObaMao and the rest of his treasonous radical Lefty ilk.

    The absolutely, positively, honest to God final amnesty EVER was passed in 1986 and signed into law by Ronald Reagan (something he regretted later). Boy, did the American people get screwed but good with that one. What we've had is one corrupt and treasonous regime after another who have failed to give us what Reagan promised; a secure border and strict enforcement in the workplace and elsewhere. The worst regime so far is that of tin pot dictator Comrade ObaMao. This crap has got to stop. Meanwhile these lousy invaders need to be arrested when encountered and deported promptly. Any invader who wants legal residency needs to go to the back of the line. The back of the line starts in their home countries, not here. Build a wall and deport ‘em all. NOW! It’s the law.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Enrique Del Taco Cortes delos Alamitos Hungarios

      Si. Do you want I should replace your sprinkler heads?

      April 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Rush Limbaugh

      Thanks for making me very rich. Keep tuning in and I will give you your opinions day after day.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • .

      Oh, Bull. Shit. Why didn't St. Reagan get that border secured, then? This isn't amnesty. Read the damned thing.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      SPLAT! Just another speck upon the screens,,,

      April 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • .

      Did you come on the screen again, lionlylamb?

      April 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      SPLAT! Gawd dang it! Get out the squidgy the darn screens are filling up with specks!

      April 17, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • .

      Don't aim it at the screen, moron. Have a hanky near.

      April 17, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
  18. Bob

    Evangelicals are among the worst that our otherwise great country has to offer.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  19. Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

    Excuse me, but why is a religious group getting itself involved in pushing political reform? Is this not illegal?

    April 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Enrique Del Taco Cortes delos Alamitos Hungarios

      Self appointing yourself as "pastor" "reverend" "iman" etc. is a license to kill. God Bless.

      April 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

      Well sweet Holy Mary and the Saints of my wardrobe, I need to get ordained.

      April 17, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • A Conversation

      Rod...read the consti.tution before you comment on what is legal or not. You're making yourself out to look like a fool.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      It’s easy to get ordained. I’m an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and can perform weddings in some counties.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • americabetrayed

      If there was any justice their tax exempt status would be revoked.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

      Perhaps you don't understand the concept of the separation of church and state. Religious organizations have no right to involve themselves in politics. This is why they are tax exempt. This is why church officials are prohibited from using the pulpit as a political megaphone (to include lobbying officials in person). If you feel the need to correct people, then write a letter to your political leaders and ask them why they meet with religious leaders. I'm just a guy that schooled you on something you clearly know nothing about. But hey, what do I know.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

      If their tax exempt status were removed, they'd be free to legally involve themselves in government. I wouldn't call that justice. I'd call that the end of scientific progression, and any other form of progression for that matter.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • A Conversation

      Rod...the Consti.tuion says that the GOVERNMENT shall not establish a religion and that we, as citizens, have the freedom to worship as we please...it does not say that citizens can not ban together, even under the guise of religion, to influence the political process. School's over.

      April 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • A Conversation

      So, apparently, to answer your question, you know nothing. Tax exempt status does not come with the prohibition against lobbying (because if that were the case, no tax exempt organization could).

      April 17, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Rodrigo El Obviouso Del Los Santos Y Sanitarios

      You are incorrect.

      Do you have ANY clue how many tax exemption codes there are? TWENTY NINE. Know anything about any of them or their lengthy provisions? Something tells me your answer is "no." Based on your last statement, which is completely, 100% wrong. You must be a church treasurer.

      Have a delectable evening.

      April 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  20. lionlylamb

    Political hogwash!

    April 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Now Charlie is pissed. Thanks LL.

      April 17, 2013 at 3:54 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.